This site uses cookies. By continuing, your consent is assumed. Learn more

132.4fm shares

Too much quinoa


Hard to say, but reality check: It isn't just vegans who enjoy quinoa. Like many occasional meat eaters I know, Too much quinoa been eating it for years. Quinoa is also big among gluten-intolerant omnivores.

So quinoa's truth—unpalatable or not—isn't just for its vegan fans to bear.

So what is going on with this long-time staple of the Andes and newly emerged favorite of health-minded US eaters? Quinoa is the grain-like seed of a plant in the goosefoot family other members include spinach, chard, Too much quinoa the wonderful edible weed lambs quartersand its appeal is immense.

Twenty years ago, NASA researchers sung its praises as potential astronaut chow, mainly for its superior nutrient density.

No less an authority than the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization hails it as "the only plant food that contains all the essential amino acids, trace elements and vitamins and contains no gluten. And quinoa has generally been a success Too much quinoa the people who grow it.

Unlike other southern-hemisphere commodities prized in the global north, like coffee and cocoa, quinoa, for the most part, isn't grown on big plantations owned by a powerful elite. A Rodale article describes its cultural place in the Andean highlands, an area that encompasses parts of BoliviaPeru, and Ecuador:. The crop was relegated to status of animal feed by Spanish colonists, perhaps because of its religious significance and, later, shouldered almost completely out of production Too much quinoa cereals such as barley and wheat and other crops such as potatoes and corn.

Colonial agriculture never really worked very well in the highlands, despite the introduction of agrichemicals. But then, in the s, a variety of projects linking Andean smallholder farmers to do-gooder US importers began to crop up to re-establish traditional quinoa production for export markets.

Today, by all accounts, the crop remains a financial success for Andean smallholders. In another recent piece —not the vegan-baiting one— The Guardian reported the price farmers get for their quinoa crop has tripled since So what's the "unpalatable truth" that's causing all the handwringing?

related stories

Escalating prices, while boosting farmers' incomes, are also helping drive down quinoa consumption in the Andes—including among the very farmers who grow it. Quinoa growers have "westernized their diets because they have more profits and more income," a Bolivian agronomist involved in the quinoa trade told The Guardian. They had no choice. But now they do and they want rice, noodles, candies, Coke, they want everything! The economics are simple: It's worth more to them [the producers] to sell it or trade it for pasta and rice.

As a result, they're not eating it any more. There's also a status issue—quinoa was once a subsistence product, and when people pull out of subsistence mode, there's a tendency to switch to higher-status foods, even if they're less healthy.

In urban areas, the situation is varied— The Guardian found quinoa to be ubiquitous in the Bolivia's largest city, La Paz, "where quinoa-based products from pizza crusts and hamburgers to canapes and breakfast cereals are displayed, Bolivia's growing middle class appear to Too much quinoa the principal consumers.

Then there are land and environmental issues. As demand for quinoa surges, farmers are scrambling for new land to cultivate to take advantage of higher prices. The push is squeezing out older forms of sustainable agriculture, and putting serious pressure on soil fertility, as Time reported in this piece:.

Now, llamas are being sold to make room for crops, provoking Too much quinoa soil crisis since the cameloid's guano is the undisputed best fertilizer for maintaining and restoring quinoa fields.

As for how much quinoa...

Other options like sheep poop appear to encourage pests. So can people like me, who prefer to avoid foods that are environmentally and socially destructive, eat it with a clear conscience? In a short period of time, quinoa has gone from a local staple to a global commodity. But that doesn't mean we should stop eating quinoa; it just means we shouldn't eat quinoa without thinking it through.

The Andean region is now governed by progressive, equality-minded politicians like Bolivian president Evo Morales—himself a Too much quinoa quinoa grower now serving as Special Ambassador to the FAO for the International Year Too much quinoa Quinoa.

In Bolivia, the government is buying quinoa and "incorporating the plant into a packet of foods supplied to thousands of pregnant and nursing women each month," The New York Times reports.

And in Peru, the government is placing it in public-school breakfasts, The Guardian adds. Such programs can help ensure that non-wealthy Andeans aren't priced out of the market for this nutrient-dense regional foodstuff. Of course, another option would be for the region's governments to just accept Too much quinoa as a luxury good for the rich Too much quinoa focus on cheaper staples like rice and beans for the poor—but no one seems ready to embrace this option.