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Americans eat 3 billion pounds of avocados a year. Most avocados sold in the United States come from a single region in Mexico: Michoacán, home of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. Avocado production is scarfing up vast swaths of Mexico’s forests, where millions of monarch butterflies migrate to spend the winter and other imperiled wildlife struggle to survive.
More than 10 football fields of land per day of Mexican forests have been cleared for avocado production over the past decade. Despite its protection under Mexican law, more than 2,400 acres of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve have been converted into avocado plantations. Any loss of the remaining overwintering habitat would be devastating for the species. Eastern monarch populations have plummeted more than 90% over the past 20 years, and the population in 2024 was the second lowest ever recorded. Nearby logging for avocados makes what little habitat remains even more vulnerable to fires and storms.
Avocado expansion imperils not just monarchs, but also migratory songbirds, as well as the unique wildlife living in the forests year-round. Habitat loss and intensive pesticide use endanger 10 species of threatened pollinators in Mexico, fragment migratory corridors for many species, and burn and fell forests that store vast amounts of carbon.
This industry destroys forests and uses an enormous amount of water — 18.5 gallons to produce one avocado — in a region already suffering from extreme drought. Avocado production has become so lucrative that it’s attracted organized crime, leading to land grabs, water-hoarding, and violence to Indigenous and other local communities. Community members, monarch butterfly defenders, and journalists who speak out to protect forests in Michoacán have been kidnapped, beaten or killed.
Research from Climate Rights International found that popular U.S. grocery chains are stocking avocados tied to destruction and violence.
Demand deforestation-free avocados. Tell U.S. grocery stores to adopt avocado-sourcing policies that protect human rights and monarch habitat. By also increasing sourcing of fair-trade, organic and domestic avocados, companies can lead the way toward sustainability and justice. Take action here.
If you’re buying avocados, choose fair trade, organic, or locally sourced avocados. Fair trade standards can protect forests and small producers. The Center’s work on pesticides illustrates why organic is a better option that protects workers and wildlife from toxic chemicals.
In 2024 the Center for Biological Diversity launched a campaign to put pressure on the grocery industry and supply chains to commit to sourcing deforestation-free avocados. Many of these companies already have similar commitments for items like beef and palm oil. We’re calling on grocery chains to adopt a zero-deforestation policy for avocados and implement a zero-tolerance policy for human rights violations and violence toward land defenders and Indigenous and other local communities. It is imperative that these large chains perform due diligence to ensure compliance in the food chain.
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