Anthropology / Everything Human

What’s the Cost of Quinoa?

What’s the Cost of Quinoa?

Many had hoped that quinoa production would lift farmers out of poverty and rehabilitate a war-torn nation—but the state of this seed remains uncertain.

SAPIENS host Jen Shannon goes on a mission to find out how quinoa travels from farmers’ fields in Huanoquite, Peru, to markets in Lima and the U.S. She discovers quinoa’s complicated past and present: a bloody civil war that shook the nation, the chefs who tried to use food as a racial reconciliation project, and the current economic and social pressures small producers face when they take on huge risks to bring their product from field to market.


Linda Seligmann is a professor emeritus of sociocultural anthropology at George Mason University. She has worked in the Andean region of Latin America for over 40 years. Her current project tracks the production of quinoa and gender dynamics in the highlands of Peru.

Emma McDonell is a Ph.D. candidate in cultural anthropology at Indiana University, where she works on food politics, political ecology, and quinoa in the Andes. Follow her on Twitter @EmMcDonell.

María Elena García is an associate professor in the Comparative History of Ideas Program at the University of Washington. She is currently working on a book project about Peru’s food boom and return to democracy after two decades of civil war.

Learn more about food at SAPIENS:

This episode of SAPIENS was produced by Arielle Milkman, edited by Matthew Simonson, and hosted by Jen Shannon.

SAPIENS producer Paul Karolyi, along with executive producer Cat Jaffee, House of Pod intern Lucy Soucek, and SAPIENS host Esteban Gómez, provided additional support. Fact-checking is by Christine Weeber, illustration is by David Williams, and all music is composed and produced by Matthew Simonson.

SAPIENS is part of the American Anthropological Association Podcast Library.

This is an editorially independent podcast funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and produced by House of Pod.

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