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Can vegans stomach the unpalatable truth about quinoa?

Posted on January 6th, 2014 at 18:23 by John Sinteur in category: News -- Write a comment


Sales took off. Quinoa was, in marketing speak, the “miracle grain of the Andes”, a healthy, right-on, ethical addition to the meat avoider’s larder (no dead animals, just a crop that doesn’t feel pain). Consequently, the price shot up – it has tripled since 2006 – with more rarified black, red and “royal” types commanding particularly handsome premiums.

But there is an unpalatable truth to face for those of us with a bag of quinoa in the larder. 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.

  1. The world’s a tricky place. You buy a product from small-scale farmers in poor countries, which normally rates as putting money in poor people’s pockets, and suddenly a newspaper tells you that you may need to check your conscience. But only if you’re a vegan and actually have a conscience.

    The article is from a year ago, by the way. There were a number of follow-up articles, some saying that the rising price of quinoa is very good news to the many small-scale Andean farmers. Is it truly better to stop eating it and have the farmers’ income collapse? As long as the quinoa-production isn’t gobbled up by big agro conglomerates, I’ll keep eating it, now and then. Certainly compared to factory-farmed meat, it doesn’t get on the radar as an ethical problem.

    The wikipedia article for quinoa links to a number of the follow-on articles:

    Dan Collyns (14 January 2013). “Quinoa brings riches to the Andes”. The Guardian. Retrieved 5 September 2013.

    Allison Aubrey (2013-06-07). “Your Love Of Quinoa Is Good News For Andean Farmers”. NPR. Retrieved 2013-08-01.

    Tom Philpott. “Quinoa: Good, Evil, or Just Really Complicated?”. Mother Jones. Retrieved 2013-11-24.

  2. Let them eat cake?

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