This is really disturbing: Can Vegans Stomach the Unpalatable Truth About Quinoa?
As a vegetarian, one of my guiding principles has been ahimsa, or nonviolence. It began to seem more and more wrong to me to fuel my body on another creature’s pain and death, so I eliminated all beef, pork, and poultry from my diet (although I still eat fish, eggs, and dairy products, first because I believe that it’s healthiest to make these sorts of drastic changes gradually, and then also because I got pregnant and didn’t want to lose the protein and other nutrients when my body most needed them). Not eating meat, I’ve naturally been exploring other foods like beans, chickpeas, couscous, and quinoa. Granted, I don’t buy quinoa often because it tends to be pricey, but I’ve loved it when I’ve eaten it. And through all of my vegetarian journey, I’ve been proud of myself for identifying and sticking with a change I wanted to make to my behavior based on what I believed was right.
Now, according to this article, the farming of quinoa is seriously damaging the people in Bolivia, making it hard for them to afford a food that’s traditionally been a staple of their diet and pushing them towards unhealthy mass-produced imported foods. Since I began my vegetarian journey on the principle of ahimsa, I find this really upsetting. The West’s hunger for this new exotic food is obviously doing violence to these people. There are a number of non-profits who work in urban communities in the US that don’t have access to healthy fresh foods, and I believe in that mission, so it seems two-faced to support an industry that deprives people in another part of the world of healthy fresh food.
I’m not going to say that, based on this one article (which is pretty subjective, honestly), I’m never going to eat quinoa again. I think if you take to heart every story you see in the news about food, you’ll end up living on water and cardboard. But I do hope to do some more research on this issue, and to think more about it. Since becoming a vegetarian I’ve leaned towards locally grown or US-grown foods anyway, so if I try to continue following that path, I’ll eliminate much of the problem (and that goes for asparagus too, which now I’m also concerned about). But because vegetarianism began for me as a moral choice rather than a health choice, I owe it to myself to examine my assumptions about the food I eat and the impact my food has in the world, regardless of whether it’s an animal product.