Food faddists make quinoa a crop worth fighting over
THOSE in the know, eat quinoa. Foodies and health nuts call quinoa a superfood. Time reported:
He leans forward, face brightening: “In 1983, 100 lb. of quinoa sold for 25 bolivianos — the price a T-shirt. Now that sack goes for $100 [700 bolivianos]. That’s a lot of T-shirts.”
But the windfall could become a double-edged sword. In February, violence over prime quinoa-growing territory left dozens injured, and land conflict is spreading. “Sure, the price of quinoa is increasing,” says Carlos Nina, a local leader in Bolivia’s quinoa heartland, “but so are our problems.” Apart from increasing feuds over property rights, these include the collapse of the traditional relationship between llama herding and soil fertilization, with potentially disastrous consequences of quinoa’s “organic” status, and the ironic twist that the children of newly prosperous farmers no longer like eating quinoa, contributing to dietary problems.
Joanna Blythman updates:
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 fuelled by overseas demand, the pressure is on to turn land that once produced a portfolio of diverse crops into quinoa monoculture. … [T]here’s a ghastly irony when the Andean peasant’s staple grain becomes too expensive at home because it has acquired hero product status among affluent foreigners preoccupied with personal health, animal welfare and reducing their carbon “foodprint”. Viewed through a lens of food security, our current enthusiasm for quinoa looks increasingly misplaced.
Trouble won’t last. As soon as the proles can spell quinoa, food snobs will have moved on. The locals will get their local food back. Or they’ll fill up on cheap protein, miracle of the post-War years…
Photo :In this photograph made Friday, Aug. 24, 2012, a bowl of Campbell’s new Chicken & Quinoa soup sits on display at the Campbell Soup Company headquarters in Camden, N.J. (Photo/Mel Evans)