Quinoa Conundrum

Worldwide demand for quinoa has soared, causing the price of quinoa to go up and making it prohibitively expensive for many people where it is grown and has been a diet staple for centuries.

I like quinoa. It’s fast, delicious and easy to make. Plus, it’s incredibly healthy. (For more on the health benefits of quinoa and how to prepare it, see “Quinoa” from the March 2008 archives.) So I was interested — and saddened — to read in The New York Times (March 19, 2011) that worldwide demand for quinoa has soared, causing the price of quinoa to go up and making it prohibitively expensive for many people in Bolivia, where it is grown and has been a diet staple for centuries.

In the past five years, quinoa consumption in Bolivia has dropped an astonishing 34 percent, while rates of malnutrition have skyrocketed as people begin to eat less expensive — and less healthy — food. Bolivian officials are trying to increase domestic quinoa consumption, but they have an uphill battle: A bag of white rice is less than half the cost of a similar-size bag of quinoa.

I hope they make progress in fighting this alarming and unhealthy new trend. It’s sad to think of the people who grow one of the world’s healthiest foods as not being able to afford it.

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