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Apparently whatever I eat is going to hurt someone in the world. Capitalism doesn't seem to work without suffering for some. I have this awesome quinoa recipe I was going to post, now I need to change the grain. 

The people who first cultivated the grain can't afford to eat it.
January 18, 2013 |

Not long ago, quinoa was just an obscure Peruvian grain you could only buy in wholefood shops. We struggled to pronounce it (it's keen-wa, not qui-no-a), yet it was feted by food lovers as a novel addition to the familiar ranks of couscous and rice. Dieticians clucked over quinoa approvingly because it ticked the low-fat box and fitted in with government healthy eating advice to "base your meals on starchy foods".

Adventurous eaters liked its slightly bitter taste and the little white curls that formed around the grains. Vegans embraced quinoa as a credibly nutritious substitute for meat. Unusual among grains, quinoa has a high protein content (between 14%-18%), and it contains all those pesky, yet essential, amino acids needed for good health that can prove so elusive to vegetarians who prefer not to pop food supplements.

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.


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Replies to This Discussion

We humans are so numerous, anything we touch becomes endangered...

I read that yesterday, was going to post it, then decided against it.

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, so I'm going to say something nasty: leaving aside for a moment the fact that the appetite for quinoa in developed countries may indeed be bad news for poor rural Bolivians, I'm frankly a bit tired of this attitude of posting articles decrying how us in the developed world fuck up everything else for everybody else no matter what we do, then all the good enviro-lefty kids comment, feel righteous about it, and then nothing changes except fads go away and others comes. It's as if we felt better about ourselves by "raising consciousness", but in reality it's just like going to confession, forgive us because we have sinned, now let's go to Whole Foods and let's talk about the latest Chilean cab, etc.

Don't get me wrong, I'm for sure a left and an environmentalist, and it's better to talk about these things than ignore them, but if in the end it's another knee-jerk reaction about expiating our guilt and not really about thinking things through, it's not helpful.

And did you guys notice how this kind of articles always pile onto the vegetarians and vegans as if they are the ones causing the most environmental disasters and human rights disasters? Look at this jab: a healthy, right-on, ethical addition to the meat avoider's larder (no dead animals, just a crop that doesn't feel pain).] Perfect excuse for many people who don't even though much research and then feel justified to go on eating meat, as long as it's local, the farmer is small scale, and the cows live happily in a huge meadow until they beg to be butchered, since they can't bear their happiness any longer :-P

Perhaps we should realize that the fact that all of us are alive and consume and possess stuff, somebody else is getting screwed or dies in various chains of events. Maybe we should be talking about changing our way to view the world, because resources are finite. And that includes understanding we will never be "pure', we will never not leave zero footprints, and life is a dirty business. Then perhaps instead of trying to feel smug and morally superior, we admit our hands are dirt and get to work minimizing the damage in a rational way.

Rant over. Sorry :-)

This rant is blog-worthy =)

I concur Michel.

@ Adriana Turn it into a blog! Need time to sort my thoughts out to reply.

Nah. You guys are making too much of it. It was my pre-afternoon tea rant :-)

But obviously it is something that gets up your nose from time to time, does it not?

Yes :-) I'm not too fond of the self-righteousness tone of many of these articles. I also don't like the "gotcha" attitude of "aha, you thought you was so morally superior by avoiding eating animals, but you're instead screwing up the lives of some ethnic groups somewhere!" of many of these articles.

That type of attitude is not only comes from the carnivores but also comes from the vegetarians as well.

I read in articles coming out of Auss about super foods, foods that if you eat them will do this or that. But what I notice is that a lot of the so called super foods are not grown in Auss itself but imported and these people are just being the mouths of the importers of these foods. 

It is crass commercialism aka as Capitalism!

Capitalism could not care what occurs to the population that grow their produce as long as it is cheap and they can make a quid out of it! 

How many countries in the world are actually fully self-sufficient in growing all their own food? 

Not many!

Why? Because the wealthier nations prefer to buy their produce from countries with lower production costs but this has a two side effects in that it forces the produce that is sold in the sourced countries to rise because the locals have to compete with the buyers from wealthier nations for the same produce. It does not matter whether it is meat or vegetables or fruit! While at the same time the wealthier nations producers struggle to be viable and survive!

Point in case. When I was growing up, steak though expensive was still affordable by those on low income. I come from that bracket but Mum could still from time to time buy a piece of rolled beef for baking. We were exporting then to the US and Europe but back then we seemed to be able to also supply the domesticate market as well as the export market but then things changed and the amount of beef we exported rose and the domesticate market now has to compete with the export market so consequently the price of beef went through the roof for the low income earners and even the middle income earners as well.

The same has happened to the lamb and mutton markets as well now. And we buy in Canadian pork while our own piggeries are struggling to stay viable.

I get the impression that because one country imports goods from another country that the importing country must export goods of equivalent value of the goods imported. 

Why do they have to do that for? Because the main importers are not the government but the commercial companies. 

With exports I can slightly understand the reasoning behind it, but it appears illogical.

Yes, of course, everyone does it. I went to the supermarket today and there were blueberries and apricots from Chile, for example. I went for the California oranges. But not many people give too much thought to where their food comes from or how it was produced.

Auss use to have a very big orange orange industry based in the MIA (Murrumbidgee Irragation Area ) that was till the mid to late 1990's. The growers just ended up bulldozing their trees because they could not compete with imported dried and liquid orange pulp. 

Just before they started dozing the trees the price in Wagga Wagga for oranges dropped to about 50 cents Auss per kilogram. Before that the price was reasonable for the oranges.

If dwindling resources are anything like climate change, the facts will eventually become too obvious to avoid.

I've decided that something needs to die for me to live, and I guess I'm okay with that.


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