The Great Quinoa Debate

In light of the influx of recent Guardian articles concerning the ethical implications involved in modern-day quinoa consumption, I and my fellow housemates have engaged in a continuous discussion regarding whether or not Ferry should continue to purchase the Andean pseudo-grain in our bulk food orders. Yearning for a more in-depth understanding of the potential issues surrounding quinoa, I dove into a fit of research on the topic and penned an op-ed for Vassar’s campus newspaper, the Miscellany News (at which I now serve as the Online Editor). In it, I present the compelling arguments both for and against world quinoa consumption, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions about their personal views of purchasing quinoa—indeed, I have not yet completely ironed out my own.

However, while I completely acknowledge the legitimate and rather urgent concern of the effect of increasing quinoa prices on Andean farmers and locals, part of me wonders if those with minds focused on social justice (aren’t we all?) will become so entrenched in “The Great Quinoa Debate”—our decisions toward which may or may not actually impact the Andean people—that it will begin to distract them from making other food choices almost guaranteed to ameliorate the world’s hunger crisis. The concluding paragraphs of my op-ed follows:

So should we, the socially conscious students of Vassar, continue to consume the (rather unsatisfactorily prepared) quinoa offered at the Deece? At whatever conclusion you personally arrive from the information I’ve offered, I hope that the intricacies of and issues surrounding the current global quinoa market prompt you to begin analyzing your food choices at a deeper, more ethically minded level than that simply of taste, pleasure, and convenience. Why not use the quinoa debate as a jumping-off point from which to discover more about precisely how the food on your plate ended up there? Indeed, while opting to abstain from eating quinoa may or may not improve the livelihoods of Andean farmers, there exist a handful of dietary choices that will concretely and profoundly decrease levels of world hunger and environmental degradation.

Consider that 760 million tons of the world’s grain provides feed for livestock, while 20 times less than that amount has been projected to eliminate the most extreme cases of world hunger today. Additionally, the world’s cattle alone consume enough food to sustain 9 billion people—the human population expected by 2050.

Regarding the environmental impacts of animal agriculture, a study published last October by the European Commission found that switching to a vegetarian diet results in twice the carbon emissions savings of switching to an electric car. By opting not to support animal agribusiness, you can rest assured that the decisions you make thrice daily as to what to eat will contribute to a growing movement toward a more equitable, just, and environmentally friendly society. Or you could gaze upon the supermarket shelves in perplexed contemplation of which brand claims to ethically source their quinoa.

I hope you’ll all hop on over to the Misc’s website to read the rest of my article in full. In the meantime, I’d like to tantalize you with a couple of the most recent culinary creations I’ve enjoyed.

pibil sandwich (2)

A loose rendition of Marly’s Vegan Pibil Torta Sandwich piled upon two slices of hearty Scottish straun bread studded with wild rice and walnuts (recipe from my favorite cookbook, “Gluten-Free and Vegan Bread”).

massaged kale salad  (2)

A salad of kale massaged with avocado and dijon mustard, mixed with carrots and dulse flakes, and topped with kimchi.

dinner (3)

A Ferry dinner crafted by my housemate, passionate vegan activist, and fellow dear VARC member Alan of a roasted veggie and tofu shepherd’s pie accompanied by a dollop of the creamiest hummus I’ve ever had the pleasure of spooning into my mouth and a salad of mixed greens dressed with olive oil and nutritional yeast.

Comment Provoking Questions: Where do you stand on the current quinoa debate?

Until next time, Ali.


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