The International Year of Quinoa – Every silver lining has a cloud.

26/01/2013 at 10:18 pm 1 comment

Some time ago, we wrote a blog post, singing the praise of the humble potato.

But of course the potato is not the only super food, and this year, we are being asked to look at the many benefits of quinoa.

As you can see on the website of the International Year of Quinoa:

“Quinoa is the only plant food that contains all the essential amino acids, vitamins and trace elements and is also gluten free. Moreover this crop is extraordinarily adaptable to different agro-ecological floors…”

And here is another quote, from this article by Tom Philpott:

“Twenty years ago, NASA researchers sung its praises as potential astronaut chow, mainly for its superior nutrient density. No less an authority than the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization hails it as “the only plant food that contains all the essential amino acids, trace elements and vitamins and contains no gluten.” The FAO is almost breathlessly enthusiastic about quinoa—it has declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa and even runs a Facebook fan page for it.”

But more recently, criticism has been on the rise. The rise of global demand for the grain has meant that prices have tripled, meaning that many people in Bolivia and Peru, the countries of origin, can now not afford their staple food.

“There are concerns this could cause malnutrition as producers, who have long relied on the superfood to supplement their meagre diets, would rather sell their entire crop than eat it. The rocketing international price is also creating land disputes.”

The criticism was quite strong:

As this article by Sami Grover observes:

“Above all else, the quinoa controversy is a useful reminder that nothing is ever simple.”

To make up your own mind, you could do worse than reading these articles:


Other articles on the same controversy:

In 2014, the FAO published its assessment of the impact of the International Year of Quinoa, listing a range of activities, but presenting very little information on whether more people are actually now eating the grain, or improving their nutritional status as a result of it.




Or, maybe we should just stop looking for “super foods”?


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