Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Quinoa Dilemma

The Guardian alerts us to the fact that Bolivians can't afford their once-ubiquitous quinoa because of price increases driven by high demand. Money quote:
The appetite of countries such as ours for this grain has pushed up prices to such an extent that poorer people in Peru and Bolivia, for whom it was once a nourishing staple food, can no longer afford to eat it. Imported junk food is cheaper. In Lima, quinoa now costs more than chicken. Outside the cities, and fueled by overseas demand, the pressure is on to turn land that once produced a portfolio of diverse crops into quinoa monoculture.

In fact, the quinoa trade is yet another troubling example of a damaging north-south exchange, with well-intentioned health and ethics-led consumers here unwittingly driving poverty there. It's beginning to look like a cautionary tale of how a focus on exporting premium foods can damage the producer country's food security
I'm torn about this one. On one hand, it would be hard to give up quinoa, mainly because it's awesome. As this and many other articles states, it's extra tasty and "...has a high protein content (between 14%-18%), and it contains all those pesky, yet essential, amino acids needed for good health." On the other hand, the picture that this article paints is not a pretty one for the farmers of the grain (although I might add, it's a bit too judgmental on "self-obsessed vegans" for it's own good). I'm afraid that I don't know much about growing quinoa, but the article implies that it's only grown successfully in South America:
"Three years ago, the pioneering Fife Diet, Europe's biggest local food-eating project, sowed an experimental crop of quinoa. It failed, and the experiment has not been repeated. But the attempt at least recognized the need to strengthen our own food security by lessening our reliance on imported foods, and looking first and foremost to what can be grown, or reared, on our doorstep."
One of the under reported elements of the global food explosion, to me, has been the unintended consequences of the appetites of the first world. In some instances, like the importance of shade-grown and fair trade coffee, the effects are well-known. Others, like the effect of cheap US-grown corn on the Mexican  farmer, or apparently the quinoa issue, are much less so.

1 comment:

eric said...

self-obsessed, egotistical coffee drinkers!!

there are so many points i could make here, but since i know you and i are on the same page already, i'm just going to hold.