Can vegans stomach the unpalatable truth about quinoa? | Joanna Blythman | Comment is free |

Starvation by unintended consequences:

But there is an unpalatable truth to face for those of us with a bag of quinoa in the larder. 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 fuelled by overseas demand, the pressure is on to turn land that once produced a portfolio of diverse crops into quinoa monoculture.

via Can vegans stomach the unpalatable truth about quinoa? | Joanna Blythman | Comment is free |

11 Replies to “Can vegans stomach the unpalatable truth about quinoa? | Joanna Blythman | Comment is free |”

  1. I’ve pointed out elsewhere, there are a number of factual errors in the article. For one thing, the vast majority of the world’s soya crop goes to make oil and animal feed. Only a tiny proportion of it feeds vegans and vegetarians, so they don’t need to shoulder the burden of the damage caused by soya farming. And the stuff about an experimental crop of exotic fava beans in Britain is bullshit. Fava beans are simply broad beans – we grow loads of them in Britain, I’ve grown them myself. I guess he means chickpeas, which are what falafels are made of. But it all goes to cast doubt on the quality of the journalism here.

    1. Actually, two distinct annotations:
      1) Fava beans are really close to broad beans but have a thinner skin and – at least the ones I ate as a child – don’t wrinkle up all leathery when boiled.
      2) I think you’re right about the Falafel thing, but then I also found a posting today, outside my understanding, saying that Fava Beans were the things used to make Falafel… which I know to be Chick Pea… which the Americans call Garbanzo… and so I started to wonder if somewhere there was a terminology overlap for different meanings, a-la Rubber versus Eraser.

  2. ???

    Also, I was reading something from a researcher in Bolivia who said that most of the items in the article are “bunk.” … and that farmers always set aside plots for themslves and their families. Additionally, the guy wrote about how the farmers are far better off now given increased demand for their product, so they’re eating less quinoa (which was seen as a poor person’s food) and moving onto things like pasta (a true delicacy there.)

    1. OTOH I have most definitely spoken with fishermen in Scotland who can’t afford to eat the Langoustines that they land.

      1. What do they mean by that? The langoustines are right there in their hands, if they wanted to take them home and cook them. Do they mean “If I went to a supermarket and wanted to buy langoustines at retail prices they would be too expensive”? Or do they mean “the langoustines are so valuable at market that it doesn’t add up for me to take them home to eat, I can sell them for a prince’s ransome and buy my family enough food for several meals instead of eating a single langoustine”? Or do they mean “I don’t own this boat or this catch. If I took a langoustine home for dinner my boss would fire me for stealing, but he doesn’t pay me enough to be able to afford to buy the shellfish I catch”? In all these cases the high market price of langoustines is a good thing for the fisherman. Only in the last case can I feel any sympathy for him, but the fault is with the tight- fisted boat owner, not the crustacean- eating public.

  3. Do Scottish fisherman traditionally value their langoustines terribly highly in the first place? The situation described by katzmandu above in which farmers don’t value their own produce highly and consider it a poor person’s food, but in which their customers somewhere else have a much higher opinion of it is a common one, but nowhere is it more common than when talking about seafood. Situations in which a species is considered barely fit for human consumption in places where it is common, but where the same species is considered a sublime delicacy somewhere else are quite common, which is one reason why the globalisation of the market in seafood has led to so much seafood being flow vast distances before consumption. A class example is the traditional attitude to tuna in New England, which in the 1960s was usually turned into pet food. Once it was discovered that the Japanese considered it to be something sublime, it became a very lucrative catch. (Some of this also came from the need to find other catches due to the decline of cod stocks).

    Personally, I have never thought to value langoustines very highly (although the Chinese do some nice things with them at times). Certainly there are other shellfish I value much more highly. The Scottish might, too.

  4. Having flown several fixed and rotary wing aircraft over the course my life, I can tell you the wily langoustine is as close to a canard as can be found in the wild. Too much tail and a quirky dihedral.

  5. Regardless of fact checking, Bythman is feeding off of media buzz of quinoa and the fact that people are threatened by the vegans. By blaming vegans for the (debatable) harmful affects of quinoa production, she is reassuring readers who have typical diets that the status quo is okay. This translates to higher readership.

    Furthermore, quinoa is great because it has all the essential proteins BUT you can also get those from eating beans and a banana. Once again, we are rather misinformed consumers. I write more about this here:

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