For Whetstone Magazine: In Mexico, a Fight for Biodiverse Avocados
An excerpt from my article, "In Mexico, a Fight for Biodiverse Avocados," in Vol. 6 of @whetstonemagazine, a divine trip into food origins and culture:
There are dozens of varieties of avocado native to Mexico, yet the hunger for Hass has propelled it to dominate avocado cultivation around the world. In Morelos, I explore how, why and the positive and negative effects of such a practice.
It’s a toasty high noon as the taxi winds the curves in the parched countryside outside of Cuautla, in the central Mexican state of Morelos. It’s late May, and it should have rained by now. Instead, the fields in this typically fertile valley are the color of dried hay, and smoke looms from controlled burn fires that have gotten out of control. Winds from the coasts bring the wet of distant hurricanes across Mexico for five months per year, starting in early May, but this year, the rain is late. The mountains, where the sacred temple of Tepoztlan overlooks part of this valley, are invisible from the highway.
We’re on this road to visit Huejotengo, one of eight indigenous villages that became communal (ejido) land following the Mexican agrarian reform in the 1930s, brought on by the recent revolution. The community sits at 7,500 feet in altitude, and as we gain elevation, some semblance of green appears, but the active Popocatépetl volcano, the typical protagonist of this landscape, which at nearly 18,000 feet is not visible today either.
Lev Orlando Jardón Barbolla, ecologist and biology professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City says the country is facing a crisis: the loss of biodiversity, in part because of demands made by industrial agriculture. Hass avocados, while good for exportation, represent the exploitation of a monoculture, he says.
“The search for homogeneity in industrial agriculture could kill all plants,” Jardón Barbolla said. “The base of evolution is variety. Our plants will be under more stress because of climate change and parasites. A diverse base leads to biological evolution, in which one of two things can happen: There is a change or there is extinction.”
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