Money for Malnutrition

Back to the grind after spring break, and it was nice to come across an interesting article so quickly.  Once again, here at the New York Times, this article tells the story of the Quinoa industry in Bolivia.

I know Quinoa, like so many other Americans, as the fancy new health food that is most likely found on the shelves of Whole Foods and Dierbergs.  Some blend of pasta, rice, and a vegetable ,Quinoa has been praised by many health gurus including the likes of Dr.Oz and Fitness Magazine as a super-food.  I knew of its supposed health capabilities, but had never even thought of the idea of where it came from.  Come to think of it, I almost never contemplate where the food on my shelves comes from, let alone the repercussions that come with providing it to me.  However, this article sheds light on the people who are effected by the ever-changing diets of the developing world.

As the article tells the story, Quinoa is an age-old staple part of the people of Bolivia’s diet, and is quite possibly the main source of nutrients.  With the new demand for this ‘superfood’ in developing worlds, and partnerships with corporations, the farmers in Bolivia are making much more exporting their crops than they were years ago.  While the increased income is welcomed, at what price does it come?  Quinoa, a formally very cheap crop for Bolivians, is now five times the price of basic white rice.  The increased income for farmers has not brought an increase in the funds of others to make them able to afford the crop.  Instead, the Bolivian people are turning to noodles and rice as their main source of nutrients, which has no where near the nutritional value of Quinoa.

The article tells of a new wave of increased malnutrition in the areas where Quinoa is being exported the most.  Not only is Quinoa more difficult to attain, younger generations are also favoring eating noodles and rice that they are accustomed to, rather than Quinoa.  Since these other grains do not have the same nutrients as Quinoa there is a concern that the younger generations may begin to be more unhealthy than their elders.

This story shows just how much lower-income countries that export crops to high-income countries rely on the lifestyle of the people half a world away, and our ever changing diets.  Also, is this trade-off of the increased income for farmers fair to those not in the farming industry forced to face malnutrition and poor health.  I think one area worth exploring would be what structures can be put in place by the government in order to distribute the wealth that is brought to the country by this industry, in order to achieve justice where there may not be fairness.


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