Jan 13

Quinoa Nonsense, or Why the World Still Needs Agricultural Economists


Cooked Red Quinoa. (Source: WikiMedia Commons.)









First came this post by Joanna Blythman on The Guardian‘s Comment Is Free blog:

Quinoa was, in marketing speak, the “miracle grain of the Andes,” a healthy, right-on, ethical addition to the meat avoider’s larder (no dead animals, just a crop that doesn’t feel pain). Consequently, the price shot up – it has tripled since 2006 – with more rarefied black, red and “royal” types commanding particularly handsome premiums.

But there is an unpalatable truth to face for those of us with a bag of quinoa in the larder. The appetite of countries such as ours for this grain has pushed up prices to such an extent that poorer people in Peru and Bolivia, for whom it was once a nourishing staple food, can no longer afford to eat it. Imported junk food is cheaper. In Lima, quinoa now costs more than chicken. Outside the cities, and fueled by overseas demand, the pressure is on to turn land that once produced a portfolio of diverse crops into quinoa monoculture. Continue reading →

Nov 12

Why Three Meals a Day? And Why Those Three?

Duke political science doctoral candidate Matt Dickenson had a great post last week in which he looked at the micro-institutions we call “meals.”

Inspired by the traditional American thanksgiving “dinner,” which is often eaten around 3PM (i.e., between the usual times for lunch and dinner in the United States), Matt asked why most of us eat three meals a day, and why are those three meals breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

Here’s an excerpt from his post: Continue reading →

Nov 12

Food Prices, Meat Consumption, and Paternalism

I took part it a Triangle Institute for Security Studies event at NC State last week on the theme of “Energy and Security,” where I briefly discussed my work on food prices and social unrest.

At the end of my talk, I mentioned a few policy options that global policy makers could pursue if they want to keep food prices down: Continue reading →