United colours of Quinoa

by Jeremy Cherfas on February 20, 2013

Excitement here is mounting as we wait for the UN officially to open the International Year of Quinoa in New York at 10 am EST, in just half an hour. To calm down, I had a quick look at FAO’s own paean to quinoa. Coming fresh to the subject, you could be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss is about.

Jolly farmers ploughing behind stolid oxen, gene-bankers in the cold, scientists in white coats, smiling multicoloured children, uplifting royalty-free music. What’s not to like?

Well, those jolly ploughmen; where are the tractors and disc harrows that other people say are ruining the soil? The gene-bankers, with their 3000 varieties; are they freely available to researchers and safely duplicated elsewhere? The scientists, finding new uses for quinoa byproducts; could that have unintended consequences? And the smiling children; no sign of malnutrition there, are you sure?

Many questions; and there are answers out there. But to do justice to them will take time.

We have all year.

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