So quinoa is a food that I often see recommended in healthy eating blogs, and then last year there were some pretty vicious, and partially true articles coming out that said that the food’s current trendy popularity in the West was starving the Bolivian people who grew it.
This is an article from AIN, an information network in Bolivia, founded by foreigners, now run by Bolivians and internationals that debunks some of the claims those articles made, and I thought it would be a good thing to share, for those of us who like to eat ethically and support people in need.
This is relevant to everyone of any particular diet. Quinoa is also gluten free, for those of you needing options!
The linked article is very informative. The ethics of quinoa production and consumption are much more complicated than they initially seemed:
Experts on food issues point to the need to consider the multiple hierarchies of power involved in food production and prices in order to understand how positive changes can be made.[xix] The Times published a letter to the editor that asserted: “While I appreciate being able to find such a nutritious and satisfying product on the shelves of my local supermarket, I’d gladly give it up to ensure that Bolivians can afford to eat it. Having foods from around the world is a convenient luxury so long as others are not paying a hefty price for it.”[xx] Foreign consumers of quinoa can stop buying the grain, but this change would actually intensify existing poverty and malnutrition by taking away Bolivian producers’ steady source of income. True food and economic security must be achieved simultaneously.
Greg Asbed and Sean Sellers making sense in "The High Cost of Anti-Immigrant Laws"
Different types of pumpkins lie arranged in a decorative landscape at the Buschmann and Winkelmann Asparagus Farm on October 18, 2009 in Klaistow, Germany. September and October are pumpkin harvesting season and the Buschmann and Winklemann farm alone harvests 800 tonnes of pumpkins and squash annually.Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
In the 1980s Tropicana coined the phrase “not from concentrate” to distinguish its pasteurized orange juice from the cheaper reconstituted “from concentrate” juice that began appearing alongside it in the refrigerator section of supermarkets. The idea was to convince consumers that pasteurized orange juice is a fresher, overall better product and therefore worth the higher price. It worked. Over the next five years sales of Tropicana’s pasteurized juice doubled and profits almost tripled.
In fact, “not from concentrate,” a.k.a pasteurized orange juice, is not more expensive than “from concentrate” because it is closer to fresh squeezed. Rather, it is because storing full strength pasteurized orange juice is more costly and elaborate than storing the space saving concentrate from which “from concentrate” is made. The technology of choice at the moment is aseptic storage, which involves stripping the juice of oxygen, a process known as “deaeration,” so it doesn’t oxidize in the million gallon tanks in which it can be kept for upwards of a year.
When the juice is stripped of oxygen it is also stripped of flavor providing chemicals. Juice companies therefore hire flavor and fragrance companies, the same ones that formulate perfumes for Dior and Calvin Klein, to engineer flavor packs to add back to the juice to make it taste fresh. Flavor packs aren’t listed as an ingredient on the label because technically they are derived from orange essence and oil. Yet those in the industry will tell you that the flavor packs, whether made for reconstituted or pasteurized orange juice, resemble nothing found in nature. The packs added to juice earmarked for the North American market tend to contain high amounts of ethyl butyrate, a chemical in the fragrance of fresh squeezed orange juice that, juice companies have discovered, Americans favor. Mexicans and Brazilians have a different palate. Flavor packs fabricated for juice geared to these markets therefore highlight different chemicals, the decanals say, or terpene compounds such as valencine.
If you want authentic juice fresh-squeezed from actual oranges to drink, the only time to get it is between May and June, when Valencia oranges are available in the U.S.
As with most issues in this new Gilded Age, the tale of the American diet is a story of the worst form of corporatism — the kind whereby the government uses public monies to protect private profit.
In this chapter of that larger tragicomedy, lawmakers whose campaigns are underwritten by agribusinesses have used billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize those agribusinesses’ specific commodities (corn, soybeans, wheat, etc.) that are the key ingredients of unhealthy food. Not surprisingly, the subsidies have manufactured a price inequality that helps junk food undersell nutritious-but-unsubsidized foodstuffs like fruits and vegetables. The end result is that recession-battered consumers are increasingly forced by economic circumstance to “choose” the lower-priced junk food that their taxes support.
Corn — which is processed into the junk-food staple corn syrup and which feeds the livestock that produce meat — exemplifies the scheme.
"Over the past decade, the federal government has poured more than $50 billion into the corn industry, keeping prices for the crop … artificially low," reports Time magazine. "That’s why McDonald’s can sell you a Big Mac, fries and a Coke for around $5 — a bargain."
Solving the crisis, then, requires everything from recalibrating our subsidies to halting the low-income school lunch program’s support for the pizza and French fry lobby (yes, they have a powerful lobby). It requires, in other words, a new level of maturity, a better appreciation for the nuanced politics of food and a commitment to changing those politics for the future.
Impossible? Hardly. A country that can engineer the seemingly unattainable economics of a $5 McDonald’s feast certainly has the capacity to produce a healthy meal for the same price. It’s just a matter of will — or won’t.
Not to mention the added burden that unhealthy diets pose for our healthcare system. Poor nutrition leads to expensive, chronic diseases like diabetes—diseases that tend to disproportionately affect the poor. When poor people are afflicted by such diseases, they’re more likely to rely on emergency room visits and other incredibly expensive ways to receive healthcare. And again, taxpayers are left footing the bill while the Agriculture, Healthcare, and Pharma industries profit.
Georgia’s tough anti-illegal-immigrant law drove a sizable fraction of the migrant labor pool out of the state, and as a result, “millions of dollars’ worth of blueberries, onions, melons and other crops [are] unharvested and rotting in the fields.” The jobs the migrants did paid an average of $8/hour, without benefits, a wage that is so low that the state’s probationed prisoners have turned it down.
Yet another story that demonstrates why harsh immigration policy is short-sighted and ultimately fucks us, as a country, over.
(And yes, I’ll continue unashamedly to put immigration reform in cost-benefit terms. I’m a social scientist; it’s in my blood, damnit.)
A helpful illustrated chart of when produce is in season (for New Yorkers and probably most people in the Northeast). (via)
According to the chart, lots of things are in season now, including strawberries, blueberries, collard greens, kohlrabi, asparagus, and scallions.
In the months to come, we can look forward to in-season celery, beets, lima beans, okra, kale, peppers (both bell and hot), cantaloupes, raspberries, blackberries, Asian pears, tomatoes, corn, and plums.