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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.


Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/03/02/4306541/bolivians-fight-over-quinoa-land.html#storylink=cpy

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."

 

 

ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images

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Decline Watch: Will other countries go loonie?

I was in Vancouver over the weekend for a conference that I will likely blog about in more detail shortly, but while I was there, my attention was struck by this story in Saturday's Globe and Mail, which suggests there's some interest in Iceland around the idea of dropping the struggling krona for the Canadian dollar:

There’s a compelling economic case why Iceland would want to adopt the Canadian dollar. It offers the tantalizing prospect of a stable, liquid currency that roughly tracks global commodity prices, nicely matching Iceland’s own economy, which is dependent on fish and aluminum exports, and in the future, energy.

There’s also a more sentimental reason. They’re both cold, Arctic countries.

“The average person looks at it this way: Canada is a younger version of the U.S. Canada has more natural resources than the U.S., it’s less developed, has more land, lots of water,” explained Heidar Gudjonsson, an economist and chairman of the Research Centre for Social and Economic Studies, Iceland’s largest think tank.

“And Canada thinks about the Arctic.”

Officially, the Icelandic government is targeting membership in the 27-member euro zone. But support among Icelanders is slipping.

In a recent Gallup poll, seven out of 10 Icelanders said they would happily dump their volatile and fragile krona for another currency. Their favoured alternative is the Canadian dollar, easily outscoring the U.S. dollar, the euro and the Norwegian krone.

The Icelandic government's official plan is still to adopt the euro, and the Canadian ambassdor to Iceland was upbraided by his bosses back in Ottawa for plans to give a speech promoting the Canadian dollar as a new currency for Iceland. There a number of countries where U.S. dollars are in circulation, either as an alternative to the local currency or as the sole legal tender, but none, so far, using the loonie -- currently trading at US$ 1.00497.

The fact that there's even this much enthusiasm for the idea could be evidence in support of Laurence Smith's notion of power shifting to the NORCs -- Northern Rim countries -- in the century ahead.