January 28, 2013

and eat your quinoa . . .

I recommend to my family that we eat as much locally produced foodstuffs as possible. I prefer to shop at farmers' markets (but actually do so only rarely . . . should have been one of new year's resolutions - none of which I actually made. I do buy local when possible from the outlets where I shop and will continue to do so; however, we also eat a variety of foods that we can only obtain elsewhere and while we should be good citizens in shopping elsewhere, we should also not be led astray by parlor room fainting spells . . .
"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," writes journalist Joanna Blythman.

This was one of several stories published in the last few years by the likes of NPR, the Associated Press, and the New York Times that draw attention to the negative aspects of the boom in world demand for quinoa. Some, like the Guardian, went to the extreme of guilt-tripping readers against buying it.

But the idea that worldwide demand for quinoa is causing undue harm where it's produced is an oversimplification at best. At worst, discouraging demand for quinoa could end up hurting producers rather than helping them.

Most of the world's quinoa is grown on the altiplano, a vast, cold, windswept, and barren 14,000-foot Andean plateau spanning parts of Peru and Bolivia. Quinoa is one of the few things that grow there, and its high price means more economic opportunities for the farmers in one of the poorest parts of South America.

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