July 19, 2013

The July 14 Business article “Why quinoa hasn’t taken over the world” championed large-scale agriculture as one solution to the scarcity of quinoa supply, and it told of the pitiable case of consumers in the developed world who want their Andean culinary fix but must suffer through fluctuating prices and little guarantee of future stocks.

The article grasped the concept of scarcity but failed to take the logical next step in considering economics in a globalized world. It noted the rising standard of living enjoyed by small-scale quinoa farmers in Bolivia, but the effects of price fluctuation on non-farming Andean households were neglected. If restaurants catering to the middle class are feeling the squeeze, the impact on some of the world’s most economically vulnerable people must be drastically amplified. Suggesting larger-scale farming as a solution doesn’t consider another local relationship: the cultural significance of quinoa to traditional Andean communities.

Discussions of global agriculture are incomplete without a comprehensive understanding of the effects on communities at all scales — both local supply and global demand.

Caroline Kamm, Washington