As a middle class hipster vegetarian, you would think that I’d be all over quinoa because of the fact that it’s high in protein and I’m not so much… Quinoa has been growing in popularity within the US and other wealthy countries over the past few years because of the fact that it is seen as a superfood with the fact that it’s nutritionally dense, gluten free, and again, high in protein. The Rapid City Journal stated in an article about quinoa that in addition to protein, quinoa also offers a healthy dose of vitamin B and E, minerals like calcium and iron, and many other nutrients.
But the thing about quinoa is that up until it started getting popular within the US and other wealthy countries, the superfood was mainly eaten by poor rural communities in countries like Bolivia. And the rise in popularity within weathier communities and countries means that the communities and farmers in Bolivia that have depended on quinoa for nutrients can no longer afford to buy it. Joanna Blythman wrote about the impact of quinoa’s popularity on food security and how that with the rise in price for the staple grain resulted in the grain being too expensive for many poor Bolivians to afford:
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 fueled by overseas demand, the pressure is on to turn land that once produced a portfolio of diverse crops into quinoa monoculture.
So with the popularity there are issues and concerns about malnutrition, land disputes, and water scarcity. Dan Collyns wrote about the land disputes and other issues with quinoa for The Guardian, saying like what’s already been said that less quinoa is being eaten in the countries of origin (Bolivia and Peru) and how:
Bitter battles are being fought over prime quinoa-growing land. Last February dozens of people were hurt when farmers fought with slings and sticks of dynamite over what was once abandoned land.
More than anything I think it’s important to recognize and acknowledge the ways in which wealth and trends influence global food security. And with the increased enthusiasm over quinoa, particularly in wealthier areas, I wonder if there is a way to balance food security (and providing a staple to the diets of poor and rural communities) and finding protein and nutrient rich foods for other parts of the world.