So, I read an article lately that claimed vegans are responsible for consuming so much protein-rich quinoa that poor people in South America, who have lived on quinoa for centuries, can no longer afford to buy it. Now, I have to say that I am an avid fan of Snopes, the urban-legend busting website. This sounds like something I would read on Snopes. Hoards of American and European vegans descending like locusts and stripping fields bare of their trendy quinoa. True? Well, like most stories, apparently “yes” and “no”.
Quinoa, as a trendy food item, has increased in popularity and (as a result) in price as well. But that money is going somewhere, right? And some of it must be going to farmers (or at least, it should be). So what’s up? As it turns out, in our global economy, things are often more complex and nuanced than they seem in a screaming headline.
Ben Alford, a blogger with Earth Eats, dissects the issue a bit more and reveals that while there are some truths to the negative impact of quinoa’s popularity, the issue is more complicated. You can read his article HERE.
It goes to show that when we talk about sustainable and ethically sourced food, we need to look at a larger, global picture. How is our food grown, how are the workers compensated and how does increased demand for a trendy product affect the overall food system? If farmers are paid more for their crops, but average or poor people are priced out of the food market, is that ethical? If a healthy food has to be transported thousands of miles, is that sustainable? If we all stop eating quinoa, what happens to the farmers who depend on selling their crops? Where is the balance between carbon footprints and heath outcomes?
What does that mean for us? Well, in terms of our family, we eat very little rice and quinoa as it is, so it isn’t so much an issue for us in terms of our weekly grocery list. It does show, however, that when you expand into a global food market, the impact consumers have on economies and resources across the world and complex and often unintended.