Home > International Marketing, International Trade, Journalism and Economics > Vegans, International Trade and Silly Journalists, II

Vegans, International Trade and Silly Journalists, II


When Guardian journalists write about trade, prepare for silliness.

Hopefully at least one or two of my first year students can spot the trouble with this headline:

Quinoa brings riches to the Andes: Bolivian and Peruvian farmers sell entire crop to meet rising western demand, sparking fears of malnutrition

See if you can follow the logic. (Warning: sit down if you are feeling dizzy.)

That global demand means less quinoa is being eaten in Bolivia and Peru, the countries of origin, as the price has tripled. There are concerns this could cause malnutrition as producers, who have long relied on the superfood to supplement their meagre diets, would rather sell their entire crop than eat it.

Makes sense, right? When farmers sell their entire crop rather than eat, they starve, unaware that their higher incomes could buy more food. Unfortunately Guardian journalists aren’t nearby to warn them of impending starvation. “No, don’t sell your crop! Eat it! If you sell it, you’ll have nothing to eat!”

Ah, for the good old days when we all grew our own food and didn’t have to worry about the malnutrition caused by international trade.

The only people much better off than $3 or so up to 1800 were lords or bishops or some few of the merchants. It had been this way for all of history, and for that matter all of prehistory. With her $3 a day the average denizen of the earth got a few pound of potatoes, a little milk, an occasional scrap of meat. A wool shawl. A year or two of elementary education, if lucky and if she lived in a society with literacy. She had a 50-50 chance at birth of dying before she was thirty years old…. was desperately poor, and narrowly limited in human scope.

Yeah, let’s go back to that.

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