Of the people, by the people, but not for the people.

I love good food: eating it, cooking it, talking about it. I devour food blogs, recipes,and  books about food. I’m a self-professed foodie.

Last night, I met up for cupcakes with a close friend. We’ve been friends since high school and she also is a gourmand. Upon realizing that we are both transitioning to vegetarian diets, we begin to swap new recipes.

“Have you read the NYTimes piece about Quinoa?”, said my friend. “No, what are you talking about”. “Well, apparently there has been quite a growth in demand for quinoa, that now the indigenous people can no longer afford it”. She continues, “So, I don’t eat it myself now. I just can’t”.

Quinoa

As soon as I got up this morning, as promised, Bridge had sent the article. Wow. Considering how much of my time I spend with food: not just thinking about the next meal, but of my 9-to-5 part of life, as I work advocating for a sustainable food system, I’m shocked that I haven’t heard of this previously. My strategic thinking side kicks in, and I hear a mentor of mine say “Yes, but would those who grow it want you now not to eat it”?

I start to look at the economics of this issue. Well, if demand increases, so does the price. Therefore, the incomes of farmers should increase. Shouldn’t they still be able to afford even a more expensive product? Maybe. It could be that their inputs grow larger, too, needing more employees or machines. It could also be that others raise their costs; be it of other food items, gas, electricity, etc. Lastly, this thinking ignores those persons who may not work in the agricultural market. Can they afford such a rise in cost to their indigenous food staple?

The article continues, explaining that this generation of Bolivian children, where much quinoa is sourced, do not like it. However, is this because they haven’t grown up eating it, or because they prefer something with  a more ‘fun’, and ‘branded’ appeal like the article implies?

I’m not sure where this takes me, personally. I see human rights concerns: local people not affording it because of global demand pushing prices up; I see environmental concerns: being unaware of where quinoa is grown, and realizing how far it travels to reach my plate; I see potential food quality concerns: if demand increases, will there be a push to find ways to grow quinoa in other climates, therefore genetically altering it?

Knowledge is power, but I can’t stomach this. In the words of Bridge, “I just can’t”.

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