January 17, 2013

The Truth About Quinoa, Vegans And The Capitalist System


Recently Joanna Blythman wrote an interesting article for The Guardian about quinoa which illustrates once again the nefarious nature of the capitalist system.  Not long ago we had never heard of the obscure grain called quinoa which is the staple of the diet in Bolivia and Peru.  Then we started hearing about this grain which is high in protein (14-18%) and low in fat.  Vegans embraced it as a nutritious substitute for meat.  Then we started hearing that it also contains all the essential amino acids needed for good health and vegetarians jumped on board.

Sales boomed.  It was promoted as the "Miracle Grain Of The Andes".  Consumers of Quinoa called it the "ethical" choice.  The price has tripled since 2006.  But the truth is that as consumption of the "Exotic Grain" increased in the United States and Europe then this pushed up the price so high that the poor of Bolivia and Peru, for whom it had always been a major nourishing staple of their diet, could no longer afford it.  In Lima, quinoa costs more than chicken.  Outside the cities there was increasing pressure to turn land that once produced diverse crops for national consumption into quinoa monoculture for export.

We all make individual choices when living under capitalism.  This should remind us that there is no perfect little utopian socialist commune as long as capitalism reigns. We have to make decisions every day.  But we should be careful not to claim they are "ethical" choices.  The ethical choice is to work to end capitalism so that food can be produced based on all human needs not for individual profit.

8 comments:

Michel said...

In response to Ann's posting: In advocating veganism, or at least not ignoring the horrors that animals live in within much of animal farming, I am not indicating that an increase in veganism would bring about, as is implied in Ann's post (in a condescending and dismissive fashion) a "perfect little socialist commune". Examining the sources of all our food, as much as possible, is the goal. Being conscious and caring about all living beings is the goal. If you buy and eat meat and dairy without this consciousness, you certainly are contributing to the suffering of those who cannot speak for themselves. Try to eat in a way that is least harmful. A vegan diet certainly does not require quinoa -- I rarely if ever eat it, and since you brought up this issue, I will avoid it. But as you say, there is no perfect world. What are you eating these days? Think about it.

Michel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michel said...

Additionally, meanwhile, until we achieve the end of capitalism and its rapacious destructiveness, I will continue to advocate and act for animal liberation, because even the end of capitalism will not assure the humane treatment of our fellow creatures. I hope someone who reads this will consider becoming vegetarian or vegan for this very reason. We only have one life here and I don't think capitalism will end in the lifetimes of anyone reading this. Meantime, the lives of countless animals are a living horror. Do you want to live your life contributing to that?

Ann Montague said...

All I was saying is that we all make choices and that the example of Quinoa (which I eat) illustrates the need for the destruction of global capitalism. I did not mean to be condescending but show how all pervasive the capitalist system is and that we cannot create a utopia. My aim was at the system we currently live in not individual vegans or vegetarians (as I have been both at different times in my life).

Michel said...

Wanting to expose the cruelty of the animal products business is trying to create a utopia? And I am wondering why someone would continue to eat quinoa, not a necessary part of our diet, when one knows the direct negative consequences. That doesn't even make sense. You can't stop trying to alleviate suffering just because we don't live in a utopian world - and never will. Even with capitalism gone. And, there is way too much emphasis in the minds of people on protein, due to the food business' propaganda. In fact, most people in the western world consume too much protein.

Ann Montague said...

I don't know what to say. I said nothing about not exposing cruelty to animals and I found out about Bolivia/Peru/quinoa about two days ago.

Michel said...

1. Deciding to try to alleviate the suffering of others is an ethical choice.
2.Focusing on "human needs", even if it is for all humans, is too limiting.We must expand this thinking to embrace the needs of entire planet and all its inhabitants.
3.Animal liberation is not just a focus on what we eat. Animal remains are pervasive in products. Go to PETA to look at their list of animal ingredients.
4. The formulation that "we should not try to elect better candidate x, or work to alleviate the suffering of y (unless the suffering is of someone just like me), because x and y exists in a capitalist system, and we must achieve a (utopian!)socialist system first" is a defeatist and selfish formulation. And it drives away people who work in popular movements, thus weakening our own efforts.

Ann Montague said...

We are in agreement with your points 1-3.
I do not recognize the quote in point 4 as anything I would say. I definitely would not vote for candidates in a party of the capitalist class. But it has nothing to do with not supporting candidates because we still live in a capitalist system.