Quinoa: From the Andes to Cosmos
By Jorge Luna*
Montevideo (PL) Quinoa, the "golden grain of the Incas", was for more than 6000 years the food of Andean peoples, but despite its recognized nutritional benefits, is still absent from the popular basket in the region.
Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, the main producers of quinoa, found obstacles for its consumption and marketing even within Latin America, and they decided to launch a promotional offensive.
Among other actions, authorities, entrepreneurs and producers participated in an international seminar under the slogan: "Quinoa: an ally to the eradication of hunger."
Likewise, five of the best Peruvian chefs dictated lectures on gastronomy, with tasting of dozens of dishes based on beans.
It is a crop of easy adaptation to any terrain, even in poor, dry or very tall soils, and a wide range of temperatures.
Its health benefits include the fact that it contains no gluten, which is important for patients with certain illness, such as celiac disease.
The production of this "superfood" is the result of the familiar work of 130 000 South American small farmers.
Some entrepreneurs and intermediaries have taken advantage of the situation and sell Andean quinoa in the United States and Europe at prices five times higher than, for example, soybean, for "gourmet restaurants".
But none of those gains reach the farmers of the Andes.
Victor Hugo Vasquez, vice minister of Rural and Agricultural Development of Bolivia, who called quinoa as "a gift from the Andes to tackle hunger in the world," highlighted all these virtues and difficulties.
He said that quinoa, with much more protein, minerals, vitamins and amino acids than rice, for example, is also the answer to both crisis the climate change and the food shortage.
Lamenting its reduced consumption, although NASA uses it as food suitable for its astronauts, Vasquez upheld the need to promote its benefits internationally.
In this sense, the UN declared 2013 the "International Year of Quinoa" while the United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture (FAO) and the Latin American Integration Association (LAIA) push the slogan: "A future planted thousands of years ago."
Aida Garcia Naranjo, ambassador of Peru in Uruguay, proposed a regional debate on the role of quinoa for food security, which was supported by authorities and experts from several countries in the region.
Ambassador of Ecuador, Emilio Izquierdo, commented how sustainable production of quinoa is, the diversity of its products and its exportation, and announced a forthcoming world congress on the grain in his country.
The general secretary of the LAIA, Carlos Alvarez, affirmed that the grain is strategic, has social, productive and commercial dimensions and is a contribution to the global effort for food security and sovereignty. He also suggested facing that challenge by regional integration.
*Prensa Latina News Agency's correspondent in Uruguay