MEXICO – The Climate Rights International (CRI) has called out the booming avocado industry in Mexico for illegal deforestation, stolen water, and violent suppression of environmental defenders.
Brad Adams, Executive Director at CRI, didn’t mince words: “Any avocado you eat from Mexico may have been grown on illegally deforested land, using stolen water, in a region where environmental defenders are targets of violence and intimidation.”
Despite claims of sustainability by major companies, an investigation by Climate Rights International revealed startling truths about the production of Mexican avocados.
Over 50,000 certified orchards were examined, and it was discovered that nearly every municipality exporting to the United States had instances of deforestation on their certified lands.
Shockingly, even companies boasting sustainability credentials were found linked to avocado producers operating on deforested terrain.
The report unearthed a distressing trend: almost all deforestation for avocado cultivation over the last two decades in Michoacán and Jalisco, the only two states authorized for U.S. avocado exports, was illegal.
Forests were razed through deliberate fires, releasing greenhouse gases, damaging biodiversity, and exacerbating water scarcity, which, in turn, led to fatal incidents like a 2019 flash flood in San Gabriel, Jalisco.
However, opposition to this devastation has been met with brutality. Indigenous communities and residents attempting to protect the forests faced violence and intimidation from organized crime groups associated with the avocado industry.
Instances of shootings, kidnappings, and murders highlighted the dangers of opposing deforestation and water theft in these regions.
The failure of authorities to enforce environmental laws and rampant corruption further exacerbate the crisis.
Despite acknowledging avocado production’s role in deforestation, officials have turned a blind eye to criminal activities, with corruption impeding investigations into deforestation for avocados.
Adams emphasized the urgent need for action, stating, “The unchecked deforestation and abuse in Mexico’s avocado-producing region is symptomatic of a broader failure to protect forests and forest defenders around the globe.”
He urged swift implementation of laws and policies to halt deforestation, averting climate catastrophe, and safeguarding human rights in affected regions.
A proposed solution lies within the certification process for avocado orchards exporting to the U.S. By incorporating a no-illegal-deforestation requirement, authorities could weed out illegally deforested lands from certification.
This step, combined with corporate diligence in scrutinizing their supply chains, could substantially mitigate the problem without undermining the entire avocado industry in Mexico.
Mexico and the United States, along with numerous other nations committed to ending deforestation, need to step up. Adams stressed, “When solutions are so simple and inexpensive, inaction by corporations and governments is inexcusable.”
He called for immediate collaboration to protect both people and the planet, setting a precedent for global environmental stewardship.
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