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View Diary: If you like quinoa, asparagus, or free trade, read this. (207 comments)

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  •  These are two separate things, really. (11+ / 0-)

    The asparagus story is just another example of low-wage corporate-driven development and it has the mix of positives and negatives of everything else like that, from maquiladoras to Bangladeshi sweatshops.  And yes, I do say "mix of positives and negatives" because I see these things as unavoidable parts of early capitalist development.  I'm doctrinaire that way.

    The quinoa story is, to my mind, overwhelmingly a positive one.  The reason quinoa was very cheap for Bolivian consumers in the past was that quinoa cultivators made very little, and you can see that in the quoted pieces.  Now those cultivators can have a good life--not flush, just good in the sense of what we'd want for all cultivators--and it's appropriate for poor consumers to make different consumption choices.  Not junk food (which, by the way, is much cheaper than proper food in most countries, so in that regard I'm not scandalized to read that about Bolivia), but certainly alternative grains.  To suggest (even without meaning to) that poor cultivators should embrace eternal poverty for the sake of poor consumers isn't right.

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 09:52:17 AM PST

    •  One more thing (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TomP, terrypinder, FG, DawnN, peachcreek

      If rural people make more, there is less migration to cities and you stabilize the population of poor consumers highlighted in the quoted pieces.

      You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

      by Rich in PA on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 09:57:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  But what if there aren't alternative grains in (9+ / 0-)

      country?

      When we travelled in both Bolivia and Peru we noticed that they were eating a lot of potatoes and white rice at meals. Every meal came with both those starches it seems. White rice is not a great replacement for quinoa.

      I wish we could find a way to pay farmers living wages and to help the people of Bolivia and Peru afford to buy the very food staple that is making some of them rich.

      I also wonder at who is benefitting the most - small farmers or larger, more corporate farms? Several of the porters we spoke to on the Inca Trail told us that small farmers could not make enough money to live by and therefore many of them worked part time on the trail. The money they earned on the trail went to educate their children. They were adamant about not wanting their kids back on the farms because they couldn't earn enough money that way. Small farms are going out of business. We're going to lose much of the variety of potatoes and quinoa from these small farms as some of them are grown only in very small areas.

      I'm with Adam - I'm not sure what the solutions are but whenever we make a Free Trade agreement with a less economically secure country, it seems that they suffer. Look at corn farmers in Mexico. I bet quinoa farmers will end up in a similar situation once corporate farms in the US start growing their own quinoa.

      •  Because there is no domestic US equivalent... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FG, angelajean, sebastianguy99, Sky Net

        ...of quinoa, I'm guessing that it wasn't subject to a duty even before the FTA with Peru.  I'm not sure, but I think the rise of quinoa consumption in developed countries correlates (time-wise) with free trade but isn't connected to it.  We don't have an FTA with Bolivia, by the way, because Bolivia doesn't believe in them and the US doesn't believe in the current Bolivian government.  

        You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

        by Rich in PA on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 11:15:23 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Small farms are not competitive with big ones (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        angelajean

        most of the time. It doesn't matter what grains you grow. I don't see how extra profit for Bolivian farmers is a problem.

        •  Profit isn't a problem. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          FG, joanneleon

          And there is no such think as 'extra' profit!

          The problem is that the people of Bolivia can no longer afford a local source of food, one that has traditionally been very important to their diets and their culture.

          It would be like Americans not being able to afford to buy bread. I think we would be looking for solutions if that happened here.

          •  It's unfortunate but overall probably worth it. (0+ / 0-)

            Eventually people will figure out how to grow quinoa elsewhere if it stays popular.

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