“An Unpalatable Truth”


Joanna Blythman warns of the effects of quinoa’s increasing popularity:

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.

(Photo: Employees are seen working at a quinoa processing plant in Challapata, 117 km from Oruro, Bolivia on February 15, 2011. According to Epifanio Murana, director of the Quinoa Producers Association (ANAPQUI), the crop will become – due to its high nutritious value – an important food source in the future and NASA researchers consider it to be an exceptionally complete and balanced food, adequate for astronauts. By Aizar Raldes/AFP/Getty Images)