Sorry Pope Francis, 2013 Was the Year of Quinoa

Never mind the biggest political stories of 2013. This year was made for one tiny grain.

National Journal
Marina Koren
Dec. 13, 2013, 9:41 a.m.

This year has seen tank­ing ap­prov­al rat­ings for just about every­body in Wash­ing­ton, thanks to bungled policy ini­ti­at­ives, stalled le­gis­la­tion, and a gov­ern­ment shut­down. But one play­er did have a good year.

It’s not Pope Fran­cis, or Chris Christie. It’s quinoa, a highly nu­tri­tious, cen­tur­ies-old grain, at least ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions.

In Feb­ru­ary, the U.N.’s Food and Ag­ri­cul­ture Or­gan­iz­a­tion de­clared 2013 the in­ter­na­tion­al year of quinoa, not for the grain’s place in West­ern so­ci­ety as a healthy, even up­scale in­gredi­ent that’s tough to pro­nounce, but for its im­pact on food se­cur­ity around the world.

Quinoa con­tains many es­sen­tial amino acids and vit­am­ins, and can grow in a vari­ety of cli­mates. Plant­ing and cul­tiv­at­ing quinoa in areas of ex­treme poverty eases hun­ger and mal­nu­tri­tion, the U.N. group ex­plains, and could even­tu­ally give rise to a new crop in­dustry.

The price of quinoa, of­ten called “the mir­acle grain of the Andes” for its ori­gins, has tripled since 2006, The Guard­i­an re­por­ted early this year. Its pop­ular­ity in na­tions where the crop is not in­di­gen­ous, like the United States, has pushed costs up enough so that poorer people in Peru and Bolivia can no longer af­ford it. Still, Peru and Bolivia are among the list of South Amer­ic­an na­tions fund­ing this year’s pro­mo­tion­al cam­paign of quinoa.

In the U.S., the concept of quinoa as a “su­per food” is at least a few years old. The grain’s ver­sat­il­ity, as well as its re­cent re­cog­ni­tion as a food craze, will keep it on the world stage for years to come. 

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