Conflict quinoa

Conflict quinoa

Via Tyler Cowen’s excellent new food-only Twitter feed, an AP story of economic scarcity, climate change, conflict, and the favorite superfood of American yuppies: 

Bolivian authorities say at least 30 people have been injured in a fight between two communities over land for growing quinoa, the Andean "supergrain" whose popularity with worldwide foodies has caused its price to soar.

Oruro state police chief Ramon Sepulveda says combatants used rocks and dynamite against each other Wednesday and Thursday. A government commission was dispatched to the two high plains communities south of La Paz.

Farmland in the region is owned not by individuals but communities.

Authorities say the dispute is related to climate change because quinoa can now be cultivated in areas previously subject to frequents frosts. Bolivia produces 46 percent of the world’s quinoa, which has nearly tripled in price in the past five years.

For the "How Food Explains the World" package for the last May/June issue, I looked at how quinoa’s international popularity has effected eating habits in Bolivia. Prices have skyrocketed thanks to export demand and domestic consumption of the nutritious grain has fallen by more than a third, prompting fears of an obesity epidemic as Bolivians switch to rice and white bread. President Evo Morales’ government subsidizes quinoa as a "strategic foodstuff."