In February, the United Nations named 2013 the Year of Quinoa and made the president of Bolivia and the first lady of Peru special ambassadors to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The World Bank joined in with a kick-off event and celebration of Bank-funded work that is helping Bolivian quinoa farmers bring their product to market. The focus on this nutritious “super-food,” which is grown mainly in the Andean highlands, is an effort to decrease hunger and malnutrition around the world.
Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wa) has long had good-for-you credentials. In 1993, a NASA technical report named it a great food to take into space. (“While no single food can supply all the essential life sustaining nutrients, quinoa comes as close as any other in the plant or animal kingdom.”) The pseudo-grain –which is more closely related to beets and spinach than to wheat or corn – has been promoted in recipes distributed by the National Institutes of Health, the Mayo Clinic and the American Institute for Cancer Research. In fact, quinoa already has done quite well on the world stage. Global import demand has increased 18-fold in the last decade, mainly due to consumption in Europe, Canada, and the U.S.