I’ve been a fan for years. Or at least until I read a recent NYT article about how people like me eating quinoa is unseating age-old consumption
patterns by increasing demand, and pricing local families in Bolivia out of the market. Oops. And there I was feeling virtuous about eating well
WHILE helping far-off farmers by buying their crops as part of a global
marketplace… See "Quinoa’s Global Success Creates Quandary at Home" http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/20/world/americas/20bolivia.html)
As a consumer, without intending to, I am effectively competing with poor Bolivian villagers. When I reach for a box of quinoa here, my purchasing power pulls food out of the marketplace there. And guess who is winning: Global demand is shrinking supply and increasing prices, meaning that fewer Bolivians can afford quinoa, driving them to more affordable processed foods and increasing malnutrition, particularly among children (And all I was trying to do was eat healthily!).
No excessive handwringing here. There will always be winners and losers in a series of interrelated decisions called the free market. For me, though, it’s a peek at what’s ahead. The global population will swell in the coming decades, from about 6B today to 9B by 2050. Expect more challenging
supply and demand dynamics like this as a more and more crowded and interconnected world divvies up increasingly finite resources.
Originally published 4/16/11