Devil in the Details

“Like every other globally traded commodity foodstuff, quinoa is devilishly complicated and prone to tragedy.” (source)quinoa
Also, “in the blog All about Quinoa they republish an article by the anthropologist Mauricio Mamani Pocoaca which previously appeared in Bolivian newspapers, where he says [es] that in this time of globalization farmers must adapt to agricultural production chains or resign themselves to losing their crop lands. Mamani adds that the hope for income from exportation is a fallacy:

Habrá muchos pedidos desde el exterior y los países andinos no podrán responder; entonces los países industrializados producirán con alta tecnología y con fines industriales. Los subproductos de la quinua llegará desde el exterior a nuestro país, en enlatados, en sobre, en diferentes preparados, con conservantes. Nuestra quinua formará parte de la comida chatarra y nosotros seremos los consumidores dependientes: razón por la que lloran los campesinos en silencio y saben que, en el futuro, nunca más serán los dueños de la semilla de quinua y además están conscientes que, en el futuro desaparecerán algunas variedades que desde su origen, tuvieron distintas aplicaciones en su uso. Antes de la época de la siembra, todos los años comprarán a comerciantes (semillas transgénicas) con el denominativo de “semilla certificada”.

There will be many requests from overseas and the Andean countries won’t be able to respond; so industrialized countries will produce with high tech equipment and by industrial means. Quinoa subproducts will come from overseas to our country, in cans, in envelopes, in different preparations, with preservatives. Our quinoa will form part of fast food and we will be dependent consumers: this is the reason why farmers are crying in silence and know that, in the future, they will no longer be the owners of the quinoa seed and they are also aware that, in the future, some varieties that were originally used differently will disappear. Before the time of sowing, every year they will buy will buy transgenic seeds with the name “certified seed” from businessmen.” (source)

Sound familiar? While I can’t be arsed (hat tip to my chums across the pond) to find sources or links to support my next thought, I’m pretty certain that they exist. Here goes: let’s say for the sake of example that you produce a crop on a relatively small scale that is enough to sustain your family and your close friends. Demand is steady, but so is production. You make enough of a profit to cover your expenses, but you live near the edge of ‘paycheck to paycheck’. Soon, though, it is discovered and broadcast that your crop is the next ‘miracle food’, and that people all around the world want to be and SHOULD be eating it. LOTS of it. Demand skyrockets. But production as you know it remains the same. You want your share of this new boon, but your conventional ways means of production are lagging way behind demand.
What can you do? If you have more land, or can obtain more land, you can increase your yield and therefore your profits. Of course, along with this comes the increase in labor expense and other associated overhead. Another option would be to find a way to increase the yield of your current crop. Might there be a more efficient way to reduce pest damage? What about a more hearty seed or more adaptable adult plant? Is there a way to speed the growth, so that you can squeeze in one or two more rotations per growing season?
Why yes, yes you can! It is mentioned in the last sentence that I quoted above, “Before the time of sowing, every year they will buy will buy transgenic seeds with the name “certified seed” from businessmen.” Yep. TRANSGENIC = GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISM (GMO).
Look out, health nuts. It is only a matter of time before our beloved quinoa, amaranth, teff, and other wonder foods go the way of corn, some wheats, legumes (HELLO, SOYBEANS!), veggies, fruits, beef, chicken, etc., etc., ad infinitum. We need to be aware of not only the name of the foods we are consuming, but also the SOURCE and methods of production of said foods.
So, off you go. Get to the nearest healthfood store and stock up NOW on these superfoods before they go the way of all other foods that we once considered healthy.

"Hey. Be careful out there."
“Hey. Be careful out there.”

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