Are agave good for the environment?

While production of some agave products like mezcal is still mostly done in the traditional way by small-scale producers, blue agave grown in Mexico is increasingly produced on large plantations in monocrops requiring the use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. The fact that these agaves are no longer flowering and producing seeds means that farmers are increasingly reliant on clones genetically identical offshoots to plant the next crop. However, health advocates are quick to point out that agave nectar processing is similar to that of high fructose corn syrup, creating a product that is almost entirely fructose with minimal nutritional value. Although most farmers don t make their own tequila, those that do have the option to hold on to the spirit when prices are low a strategy aided by a push from distillers to label highly aged tequilas as extra añejo and sell them at a higher price, even if extensive aging isn t traditional for most agave spirits. Ironically, the subsequent push to replant all the lost crop at once sparked an oversupply of agave years later and sent prices toppling. The Aztecs fermented agave sap into a milky alcoholic beverage called pulque.

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