Agave Spirits is out Now!

Mezcal Manifesto is prepared by Gary Paul Nabhan and David Suro Piñera for endorsement by others involved in agave spirits, whose names are listed below 




As harvesters, habitat restorationists, growers, guardians, distillers, distributors, botanists, bartenders, consumers and concerned citizens whose landscapes and livelihoods depend upon the conservation, cultural and culinary enjoyment of drinks and foods derived from agaves,

We have joined together to alert the world to the daunting challenges now facing at least 60% of all agave species, their associated wildlife and microbial diversity, and the agave spirits industry that relies upon them.

As Mexican ecologist Alfonso Valiente-Banuet has so clearly warned, “A missed component of biodiversity loss that often accompanies or even precedes species disappearance is the extinction of ecological [and cultural] interactions.” Because of the ongoing losses not just of one agave species after another, but of all the other species interacting in “the agave holobiont,” we need what Dr. Valiente- Banuet refers to as “a comprehensive plan that combines the production of artisanal mezcal, rural development for small producers and maintenance of biodiversity.

Together we seek not to critique, but to craft long-term solutions for the equitable and sustainable production of the many mezcals and kindred agave spirits.

We are just as concerned about improving the well-being of all those involved in every link in the agave spirits supply chain.

We have arrived at a critical moment in history for determining the future of agave distillates, which exemplify the unique contributions of Mexico to the gastronomic patrimony of the Americas. It is time to act.



We wish to the distinctiveness of mezcals and other 100% agave distillates relative to all other liquors produced on the planet, including tequila:

  1. There is more “biodiversity in a bottle” embedded in small-batch 100% agave distillates than in any other alcoholic beverage in the world, with more than 62 species of agaves being used in mezcal production, in addition to more yeasts and bacteria than those involved in the fermentation of any other commercial-available spirit.
  2. The probable pre-Colonial microdistillation of agave alcohol likely represents the oldest distillation tradition for any plant-based beverage in the Americas and should be considered a key feature of the Mexican gastronomic heritage decreed by UNESCO as a Patrimonio Cultural de Humanidad, or a Cultural Legacy of Global Significance to Humanity.
  3. More indigenous and immigrant cultures have contributed to the traditional knowledge and biotechnologies used in producing agave spirits than the cultural diversity engaged in any other beverage now made in the Republic. These stakeholders live and actively work with agaves in at least 22 Mexican states.
  4. Many other non-timber forest products are associated with mezcals as ingredients in agave -based herbal medicines, infusions (curados), pechugas, and
  5. There are well-documented spiritual, ceremonial and ritual uses of mezcals in many indigenous cultures of Mesoamerica that should protected as part of the unalienable rights to religious freedom of expression.



We therefore propose a comprehensive action plan to set the agave spirits industry and its many stakeholders on a healthier, more sustainable course. With appropriate public investment, all of these proposed actions can be readily accomplished within a decade;

  1. Give higher priority in the Sembrando Vida initiative in reforesting both wild agaves and the trees used as fuelwood in mezcal roasting and distillation. Three out of every ten of these agaves and trees should be left to flower for bats and other pollinators so that they can produce seed for forest regeneration.
  2. Assure greater protection and withdraw permits for harvesting mezcal in any area in which wild agave species occur that are on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Increase monitoring and on-ground protection of the 18 Agave species protected under the official Mexican Norm NOM-O59-SEMARNAT-2010.
  3. Create a five-kilometer-wide buffer between wild populations of agaves and any new plantings of the tequila azul cultivar on rented or purchased lands to slow the spread of both the tristeza y muerte pathogens and picudo pest infestations.
  4. Grant carbon offsets or payments to ecosystem services only to ejido collectives or property owners with less than 50 hectares of private lands in agave production who grow four or more species of agave, rather than offering them to proprietors of monocultural plantings of tequila azul, espadín, or henequen.
  5. Establish for each local or indigenous tradition of agave spirits is own collective trademark, appellation of origin or geographic indicator other than the Denominations of Origin for Tequila and Mezcal, with an association civil non-profit directed by producers themselves, as alternatives to external Consejo Regulador entities that do not favor small batch producers.
  6. Invest in community-based technological infrastructure for cost-efficient local processing of agave inulins—not for high-fructose agave syrups and nectars—but for probiotic, antidiabetic beverages and foods to deal with Mexico’s costly pandemic of diabetes and obesity.
  7. Expand rural health clinics in areas of agave production to test for, monitors and treat toxins derived from pesticides, herbicides and other agrichemicals, and to deal with the increasing frequency of heat related accidents, strokes, dehydration and exhaustion associated with climate change.
  8. Grant all skilled distillers (mezcaleros), harvesters (jimadores) as well as all daily wage workers (jornaleros) in agave fields all health care and retirement benefits available through IMSS.
  9. Subsidize development of on-farm infrastructure to use trimmed agave leaves from fields and bagasse from distilleries as fermented silage for livestock feed, or as organic soil amendments.
  10. Certify at much lower economic costs and paperwork volumes any uncertified, small-scale distillers who wish to be certified, but who now must clandestinely produce and sell their bootleg agave spirits because of high “pay to play” entry costs. Waive or reduce the Value Added Tax (IVA) and Special Taxes on Products and Services (IEPS) for small-scale artisanal producers, as is done for traditional producers of indigenous crafts and other handmade products. These taxes now remove 59% of the value of each bottle of agave distillate sold in Mexico from the income of the producer.