How many Bolivians are dying because foodies love quinoa?


By Virginia Heffernan

A long time ago, “Bolivian marching powder” meant cocaine.

a repost

Now it could mean quinoa. Quinoa is a massive crop that for millennia has honed its extraterrestrial nutritional powers in the dizzying altitudes of the Andes. In recent years, this curious substance—like coke before it—has also become a major export for Peru and Bolivia.

But, as the Guardian recently reported, the foreign market for the good seed has driven the street price of quinoa up so high that most Bolivians and Peruvians can no longer afford their homegrown staple. For the people who used to live on it, protein-dense quinoa is now more expensive than chicken. That’s rich.

Denied their indigenous marching grain (technically a “pseudocereal”), Bolivian and Peruvian peasants are turning to junk food—the same sugary bunk that sickens and malnourishes millions of us in the U.S. And thus we net a nifty parable of globalism, progress and nutrition, with one clear upshot: Foodism, like every other ideology, is dangerous—and carries unintended consequences.

I would tell you what quinoa is, in hair-splitting pseudo-agricultural detail, but then I’d sound like just one of them. The foodies. Those people who are always saying—oh, I can’t even mock them. Suffice it to say I’d rather hear an Oxycontin addict talk about how he puts the edge back on with Adderall than I would a foodie talk about how he balances the acids in mustard greens with cake flour. At least the Oxy folks don’t turn their boring and expensive pleasure into sanctimony. In my experience, they’re even somewhat private and sheepish about it.

But let’s just say quinoa is a thing that foodies adore, that exists by the gunnysackful in the stockrooms of liberal-elite restaurants and liberal-elite kitchens in Boston, San Francisco, Manhattan, Portland, Chicago, Austin and Seattle.

Quinoa is stylish and, furthermore, believed by the Timothy Learys of the foodists to goose or balance “amino-acid levels,” without which many noble vegans and carniphobes would perish (or have to resort to yucky supplements). To be a good sport, since I live in foodie Brooklyn myself, I have tried quinoa with beets and cheese and fish, in muffins, beside eggs—wherever regular American carbs like potatoes used to be served.

The people of the Andes like to eat quinoa this way too, it turns out. Quinoa is known to Andean folks as the “lost crop of the Incas,” as well as a “miracle grain” for its near-holy amino-acid balance. But then, suddenly, rich people in other countries, including the United States, some of whom have shifted their taste from white powder to this other intoxicant measured in grams, wanted to sample the latest Bolivian miracle. So we enriched many farmers by buying up the quinoa—and further impoverished the Andeans, by dooming them to malnutrition.

What a story! Quinoa prices, according to the Bolivian department of agriculture, have almost tripled in five years, during which time Bolivia’s own quinoa consumption has dropped by a third. In areas where quinoa is grown, chronic malnutrition in children marches upward.

Of course, there’s a style issue in Bolivia, too. Kids in Park Slope, Brooklyn or Marin County, Calif., raised in the cult of Alice Waters and Whole Foods, may like quinoa, but regular kids in countries that aren’t hyper-trophically developed don’t typically ask for it. Sensibly, they ask for what’s sugary and on circus-colored billboards. Explains Víctor Hugo Vásquez, vice minister of rural development and agriculture in Bolivia, “If you give them boiled water, sugar and quinoa flour mixed into a drink, they prefer Coca-Cola.”

At the same time, ballooning quinoa prices also raise questions that could, if answered, change the story from ironic and sad to more complex still.

As Marc F. Bellemare, an assistant professor at Duke University, points out in his blog, the tragic take on the quinoa boom assumes that Bolivian households are mostly quinoa consumers penalized by a bull market and not quinoa farmers and sellers who stand to gain from it. In fact, agricultural economists haven’t sorted this out yet. Journalists who make the opposite, and equally unfounded, assumption—that Bolivians are mostly quinoa farmers (and not children starving for want of quinoa)—sound like delirious free-market boosters. In The Globe and Mail, Doug Saunders has raved that for Bolivians the quinoa craze is “the greatest thing that has happened to them. … Quinoa had all but died out as a staple in Bolivia, replaced by beans and potatoes, until farmers began planting it in the 1980s with exports to North America in mind.”

The important thing, then, is to follow the food without getting ideological, not only about wholesome classy quinoa, but also about delicious tawdry Coca-Cola, that bugbear of foodies who are perpetually disgusted to discover that the feeble-minded among us still like a little sugar with our water. Eat what you want, but stop preaching about it, and it surely can’t hurt to leave some Andean quinoa for the people of the Andes.

To help children in Bolivia, where more than half the kids 6 months to 5 years old suffer from malnutrition, and 54 in a thousand die in childhood, consider supporting MAP’s Community School for Life.

6 Things Not To Say To a Mixed Person


FDA/USDA ~~ Alerts & Safety April 2015 p.2


USFDA_footerB & R Meat Processing Recalls Pork Products Due to Possible Processing Deviation and Staphylococcal Enterotoxin Contamination
B & R Meat Processing, a Winslow, Ark. establishment, is recalling approximately 2,129 pounds of pork products due to a possible processing deviation that may have led to staphylococcal enterotoxin contamination.

04/17/2015 11:20 AM EDT Schnuck Markets, Inc. of St. Louis, Mo. is recalling its Chef’s Express California Pasta Salad sold in its Deli/Chef’s Express departments April 2 – April 14, 2015 because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting in the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms, endocarditis and arthritis.

 

B& R Meat Processing, Inc. Recalls Products Due to Nitrite Levels in Excess of Regulatory Limit
B & R Meat Processing, Inc. is recalling approximately 569 pounds of pork products due to nitrite levels in excess of regulatory limit.

Beech-Nut Nutrition Recalls Baby Food Product Due to Possible Foreign Matter Contamination
Beech-Nut Nutrition, an Amsterdam, N.Y. establishment, is recalling approximately 1,920 pounds of baby food products that may be contaminated with small pieces of glass.

04/08/2015 10:04 AM EDT  These products have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Corn Maiden Foods, Inc. Recalls Beef and Pork Products Due To Misbranding and an Undeclared Allergen Corn Maiden Foods, Inc., a Harbor City, Calif. establishment, is recalling approximately 15,600 pounds of pork tamales, pork Yucatan, and beef brisket taquitos products due to misbranding and an undeclared allergen (hydrolyzed soy protein).

 

Cargill Recalls Beef Products Due To Possible Foreign Matter Contamination
Recall Notification Report. Cargill Meat Solutions, a Wyalusing, Pa. establishment, is recalling approximately 8,294 pounds of ground beef product that may be contaminated with blue string.

Updated information is now available. A list of retail consignees has been posted for recall 056-2015, Vern’s and Sons Food Service Recalls Beef and Chicken Products Produced Without Benefit of Inspection (Apr 8, 2015).

La Guadalupana Wholesale Co., Inc. Recalls Pork and Chicken Products Due To Misbranding and an Undeclared Allergen
La Guadalupana Wholesale Co., Inc., a Chicago, Ill. establishment, is recalling approximately 34,923 pounds of pork and chicken tamale products due to misbranding and an undeclared allergen. The products contain egg whites, a known allergen, which are not declared on the product label.

Vern’s and Sons Food Service Recalls Beef and Chicken Products Produced Without Benefit of Inspection
Vern’s and Sons Food Service, a Milwaukie, Ore. establishment, is recalling approximately 450 pounds of beef and chicken products that were produced without the benefit of federal inspection and outside inspection hours.

 

Leader Slaughterhouse, LLC Recalls Veal Carcasses Produced Without Full Benefit of Inspection
Leader Slaughterhouse, LLC, an Imler, Penn., establishment, is recalling approximately 1,800 pounds of veal carcasses that were produced without the full benefit of federal inspection and outside inspection hours.

04/10/2015 08:56 AM EDT Kanan Enterprises announces the voluntary recall of macadamia nuts due to potential contamination with salmonella.  The supplier of the macadamia nuts has asked us to issue this recall because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.
04/09/2015 08:07 PM EDT Texas Pecan Company Inc. of Dallas, Texas, is voluntarily recalling the items stated below; (refer to Table in Paragraph 3), because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune
04/08/2015 07:08 PM EDT Today Sabra Dipping Co., LLC announced that it is voluntarily recalling approximately 30,000 cases of its Classic Hummus due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. This measure is limited to five SKUs of Classic Hummus sold nationwide.
04/07/2015 10:42 PM EDT
Blue Bell Creameries is expanding its recall of products that were produced in the Broken Arrow, Okla., plant to include Banana Pudding Ice Cream pints which tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes, and additional products manufactured on the same line. These items have the potential to be young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.

A Historic Meeting


whitehouselogoPresident Obama met with Cuban President Raul Castro in Panama City on Saturday — marking the first full meeting between the leaders of the two countries since we announced a new diplomatic path with Cuba.

The two presidents discussed our shared histories, significant policy changes, and the positive response in both countries to this thaw in relations. “This is obviously a historic meeting,” said President Obama — who was in Central America for the seventh Summit of the Americas, a tradition that brings together the leaders of North and South America to discuss issues that impact the region.

Watch the President’s remarks at the Summit and learn more about his trip.

The President speaks at the Summit of the Americas.

Weekly Address: Tuition-Free Community College

In this week’s address, the Vice President laid out his and the President’s plan to make two years of community college free for responsible students. A better-educated citizenry is necessary to ensure that the United States continues to out-compete the rest of the world. Making two years of community college free is good for workers, good for companies, and good for our economy.

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Why Conversion Therapy Hurts All of Us

More than 120,000 people signed a petition calling for a ban on the dangerous and unacceptable practice of conversion therapy — and on Wednesday, we responded. The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy is neither medically or ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm. That’s why the Obama administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.

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West Wing Week: “A Good Deal”

Last week, the President made an important announcement about preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, traveled west to champion high-tech jobs in Louisville and clean energy jobs in Salt Lake City, had some fun at the 137th-annual White House Easter Egg Roll, and flew to Jamaica for a meeting with leaders of Caribbean nations.

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I am a veteran, and I am dying


I’m 31 years old, and I’m dying of ALS. Please tell the FDA to grant accelerated approval for a new drug that could save my life.

C –