Is quinoa ethical?

May 9, 2018 6:29 am Published by Leave your thoughts

A few years ago ethical concerns were raised about the supply of quinoa to the West. With the popularity of this grain growing, exports from South America were soaring and prices in the region rising. Reportedly, native populations in some areas were becoming unable to afford their own basic, staple crop. At one point it was stated that in Lima quinoa (the Peruvian ‘mother grain’) cost more than chicken.

Concerns were raised about how ethical the supply of South American quinoa was

Most quinoa is grown in the mountainous areas of South America                    Image: Maurice Chédel

There were concerns, too, that demand from the West was driving the creation of a farming monoculture in some regions, to the detriment of the environment. The ‘food miles’ the crop travelled from South America also worried many people.

The tide starts to turn

Nevertheless, the popularity of quinoa continued. And the tide turned somewhat with the production of a report by the International Trade Centre (ITC – the joint agency of the UN and the World Trade Organisation) in 2016. This found that higher quinoa prices had in fact significantly improved the welfare of the poor, rural communities (particularly women) involved in the farming of the crop.

The findings echoed those in a report issued slightly earlier, by two US economists: . This report described the claims that native populations were suffering because of high prices as ‘patently false’. Rising quinoa exports? ‘It’s really a happy story’, the economists concluded.

Soaring quinoa exports are good news for many

Recent reports indicate that higher quinoa prices have been good news for native communities    Image: Crops for the Future

However, nothing is entirely clear-cut in this world – and certainly not with regard to food. Concerns about monoculture, the over-use of pesticides, the overall environmental impact, and the carbon footprint of an imported foodstuff persist.

Treading a safe, ethical path

At Naturally Good Food we’re trying to tread a safe path through this ethical minefield. We continue to stock quinoa from South America, sourced from our wholesalers, all of whom have strong ethical credentials. But we also stock UK-grown quinoa, from Hodmedod’s. Now grown in Suffolk (based on the pioneering techniques and varieties used by Peter Fairs in Essex), this is truly local, ethical quinoa, which is now certified organic, too. Much expertise has been applied to the problems of dealing with the UK’s weather and choosing the best varieties for our climate. The result is quinoa that’s just as good as the South American ‘mother grain’, without those ethical twinges. In our UK-grown range, we’ve got Hodmedod’s quinoa grain, quinoa puffs and quinoa flour.

Click here to see all our quinoa. We’re big fans of this foodstuff and its amazing nutritional qualities. We’re optimistic that one day it will be as popular and unproblematic as rice and pasta – as easy on the conscience as it is on the stomach.

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This post was written by Yzanne

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