Quinoa commentaries and the food and climate crises

Dave Burdick responds to a misleading article in the Guardian about global demand for quinoa and its impact on Bolivia and Peru, where the seed originated and is mostly grown. Quinoa producers are eating less of the food and the revered and nutritious seed has become more costly.

As Burdick notes, the author of the Guardian commentary selectively blames vegans and vegetarians for an array of ills, including rising quinoa prices and deforestation in Andean states, while overlooking the geopolitical pressures that are changing our global diet and quinoa-exporting countries like Bolivia. Plus, Bolivians made more prosperous by increasing exports are diversifying their diets to include more meat and industrial food, like many people elsewhere.

As Buridck notes:

This is an example of widespread “ethical” eating decisions—if that’s what we’re attributing it to—having a real effect on global production. That is to say: So many people are eating a healthy food that they are driving up the demand for it, which means more people will grow it and make a living off of selling it and it will become more common and so more people will eat it.

The Guardian previously published a report on quinoa demand that appeared a few days prior to the commentary. It provides context that’s missing from the bizarre slam against vegans and vegetarians.

And since 2013 is the International Year of Quinoa, expect to hear much more about the seed this year – and maybe for much longer. Several prominent voices have promoted quinoa as a response to our worsening global food crisis.

Says Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization José Graziano da Silva: "As we face the challenge of feeding the world population in a context of climate change, quinoa offers an alternative for those countries suffering from food insecurity.”