The Rebirth of the Avocado

Jessica Kennedy, Staff Writer |

The increase in the global temperature is bringing the destruction of many things. The avocado is one of them. Despite the growing demand for the fruit, there hasn’t been any way to make them grow faster, until now.

The changing climate is increasing the heat in California and Mexico, where majority of avocados are grown and consumed. This increase in heat has changed the avocado’s desired conditions, reducing the harvest amount for avocado farmers as a result. Not only does this negatively affect avocado toast lovers, but it also hurts the Latinx community and economy since majority of avocado farming occurs in Latin America. According to the World Avocado Organization (WAO), a predicted fifteen percent increase in avocado demand over the next five years will benefit Latin American countries through job and wealth creation. But, without genetic modification, the supply will not satisfy the demand.

Scientists at Texas Tech University, University of Buffalo, and their partners in Mexico have been studying the genetic makeup of avocados to see if they can genetically modify the fruit to grow in different conditions. The leader of the avocado project, Dr. Luis Herrera Estrella, plans on making avocados resistat to certain diseases and capable of growing in conditions other than the extreme wet or dry, sunny ones the avocados are used to. In the study’s paper at the University of Buffalo, Dr. Herrera-Estrella said, “In plants, genes retained from polyploidy events often have to do with big regulatory things. And genes kept from the more limited one-off duplication events often have to do with biosynthetic pathways where you’re making these chemicals – flavors, chemicals that attract insects. Chemicals that fight off fungi. Plants are excellent chemists.” The scientists and researchers working on this project have been looking at the species’ DNA and compiling a genetic makeup that will help avocados grow and survive better than they ever could naturally.

Even though this genetic modification could help the avocado market, many people are skeptical of genetically modified organisms (G.M.O.s). There is a widespread belief throughout environmentalists, such as Green Peace, that this genetic modification pollutes waterways, and is full of pesticides. Although they do admit some countries use illegal or bad methods for using water, the WAO says, “There is so much misinformation about this. It all depends on the country. Mexico and Columbia only use rainfall, for instance.”

According to Statista, Mexico was the largest producer of the fruit in 2017 and earned $2.5 billion from the avocados. Since the largest producer of avocados uses environmentally safe methods, the WAO believes the good quality produce that fits consumer demands is more beneficial to society than the counterarguments.

With these genetic modifications and the growing demands, avocado sales and production are predicted to increase by billions over the next decade. For avocado lovers, this may mean cheaper produce and more products incorporating the fruit such as vegan ice creams, guacamole, avocado on toast, and much more.

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