Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, February 8, 2024

Contact:

Stephanie Feldstein, (734) 395-0770, sfeldstein@biologicaldiversity.org

Ahead of Super Bowl Sunday, Consumers Demand Anti-Deforestation Avocados

Party Guac Comes With Human Rights Violations, Threats to Monarchs

LAS VEGAS— More than 28,000 people are calling for grocery chains to adopt avocado-sourcing policies that protect human rights and monarch butterfly forests in Mexico.

Enormous demand for avocados in the United States is fueling deforestation, violence and water shortages in the state of Michoacán. Super Bowl weekend accounts for 20% of annual U.S. avocado sales, most of which are imported from Mexico.

“Many people in Mexico have lost their forests and water because of the 304 million pounds of avocados we’ll be eating on Super Bowl Sunday,” said Stephanie Feldstein, population and sustainability director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Our obsession with avocados has a horrific hidden cost. It’s time for grocery chains to take responsibility and make sure they’re not buying avocados grown in deforested areas.”

The Center for Biological Diversity’s petition targets grocery companies and importers whose avocado supply chains include Mexican growers. Those companies include Albertsons, Costco, Kroger, Target, Trader Joe’s, Walmart, Whole Foods, Calavo Growers, Fresh Del Monte Produce, Mission Produce and West Pak Avocado.

A recent investigative report, Unholy Guacamole, from the nonprofit group Climate Rights International found that popular grocery chains are stocking avocados tied to destruction and violence. The explosion in the avocado market has led to widespread deforestation and illegal water diversion, creating water shortages for local residents.

Community members, monarch butterfly defenders and journalists who speak out to protect forests in Michoacán have been kidnapped, beaten or killed, the report said. Even truck drivers transporting the lucrative avocados have to be escorted by armed guards for protection from organized crime.

According to the report, U.S. appetite for avocados has grown rapidly, tripling since 2000. Four out of five avocados in the United States are grown in Mexico, representing $3 billion in imports of the fruit each year.

Despite its protection under Mexican law, areas inside the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve have been logged to grow avocados. Clearcutting of surrounding forests decreases the suitability of the reserve to protect the migratory monarch population during winter.

The eastern migratory monarchs, which make up 99% of the total monarch population, migrate from the United States and Canada to oyamel fir forests in Michoacán which act as insulation for the long-distance fliers. Monarch populations have fallen more than 90% in the last 20 years and this year’s population is the second-lowest ever recorded. The species is scheduled to be proposed for U.S. Endangered Species Act protection by the end of the year.

“We need to do everything we can to keep forests healthy and intact to fight climate change and protect monarchs,” said Feldstein. “Deforestation is never good, but it’s especially terrible to let our avocado infatuation make things worse for already-struggling communities, species and ecosystems.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

center locations