We find ourselves caught up these days, especially in cities with a “foodie” culture, in the latest healthy trend. Superfoods, supplements, and exotic items on the menu are a natural outlet for disposable income, using it to improve the quality of our own lives with the added benefit of being environment- and health-conscious.
Give a thought next time though, as you bite into say, a delicious quinoa wrap, give a thought to the story of that quinoa—before you pat yourself on the back for supporting Peruvian farmers, choosing a more environmentally friendly crop, and embracing the health benefits of this miracle grain. There can be unfortunate global repercussions due to our increasing obsession with these products.
It’s a great irony too. For in Peru, where the majority of quinoa is produced, many locals can no longer afford to eat it. Having been the staple food in this region for hundreds of years, Western demand has now pushed prices up to a level where the majority is exported, and the diet of locals has been supplanted by imported junk food. The push in the West to diversify our diet, and in a lot of circles reduce the impact of animal husbandry by moving towards vegetarianism, has led to the opposite effect in the countries from where we import these crops. In the US quinoa is added to the diet and junk foods reduced, and in Peru quinoa is removed from the diet and junk foods increased.
If everything ends up being in balance globally, one step forward one step back, are we really accomplishing anything by being “conscious”?
Answer that question and I’ll buy you the world. And all the quinoa in it. Truth is I feel torn, and I don’t think I’m the only one. Maybe we should be looking for alternatives. Maybe we should be moving away from such a focus on meat, especially red meat, in our diets. But we need to be aware that there’s a cost for everything. That quite often “local” is better than “organic.” Transferring our problems isn’t solving them—only making them somebody else’s.
David Wilson graduated from the University of Texas in 2006. Since then he has gone wherever the wind blows him, living in Europe, China, and the States, and traveling extensively throughout the rest of the world. When he’s not on the move, you can find him obsessing over latte art, playing piano, or trying to bleach his hair in the sunshine. Follow him on Twitter.