Quinoa and Consumer Choices
You may have seen some recent stories shared on various social media sites about the unintended consequences of the newfound love of quinoa here in America and in much of the Western world. As hard as it may be to think of our consumer choices affecting others, they do, particularly if we buy imported goods – food, clothing, appliances, smart phones. Our actions affect other people’s lives all around the world.
Does this argument stop you from wanting to eat quinoa? That is not the effect I would want that to have. What we do need to do is pay more attention to where things come from.
We were discussing this at dinner last night since my husband told me he read the article and wasn’t so sure what irritated me so much about it. (The tone and blame on vegetarians mostly, plus the throw-up-your-hands-never-eat-quinoa-again-and-everything-will-be-fine attitude.) He went on to mention that the farmers should be happy they are getting paid a higher price. Anyone who understands trade will likely see the flaw in that argument. But he agreed that the one thing that does make him think twice is chocolate.
“Why chocolate?” my 8-year-old asks. Why chocolate indeed. Without going into too much detail, we talked about men, women, and children are forced to work on chocolate plantations. Then the gut-wrencher. I told him that next time he was complaining about school, homework, or cello practice he might want to consider those children his age who are forced to work all day, every day. He really took that message to heart.
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month
- Human trafficking has been likened to modern-day slavery and subjects children, women, and men to force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of commercial or forced labor. This horrific practice can include prostitution, exploitation sexual pornography, and sex tourism as well as work, and migrant farming. Approximately 20-30 million people are trafficking victims.
- An estimated 5.5 million children are victims of trafficking, an illegal enterprise that generates an estimated $32 billion in yearly profits. Human trafficking cases have been reported in every state in the United States. Rates are particularly high in California, Texas, Florida, and New York.
- Human trafficking is extremely profitable, generating an estimated $32 billion in yearly profits.
- Some goods that have the highest rates of child labor are: gold, sugarcane, coal, cotton, rice, tobacco, cocoa, diamonds, garments, coffee, bricks, carpets.
The U.S. Fund for UNICEF has launched The End Trafficking project to raise awareness about child trafficking and mobilize communities within the United States to take meaningful action to help protect children. In partnership with concerned individuals and groups, the initiative aims to bring us all closer to a day when ZERO children are exploited. To learn more about the End Trafficking initiative, visit: www.unicefusa.org/endtrafficking.
- Find out how the work of exploited people has a direct effect on your life. Visit Slavery Footprint to determine how many slaves touch the products you buy.
- Support policies that protect victims of trafficking. Ask your senator to reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (S. 1301).
- Host a screening of Not My Life or another film focused on the issue of human trafficking. Facilitate a discussion afterward that directs participants to action. Visit unicefusa.org/endtrafficking to learn how you can get a copy of Not My Life along with a discussion guide.
- Switch to Fair Trade brands, and/or host a Fair Trade Party. Fair Trade-certified products are produced without slave or child labor. Profits from Fair Trade products support farmers and laborers involved in production and ensure that they are paid fairly and work under safe conditions.
- Purchase products made by survivors of human trafficking. From jewelry and handbags to lotion and soccer balls. Purchasing survivor-made products helps to support sustainable employment and rehabilitation programs for survivors. Start shopping.
- Believe in Zero.
The last thing I can ask you to do is pay attention and make sure others are as well. Whether you share this post, Angie Harmon’s PSA, or just talk about what your consumer choices might mean, keep this conversation going. That is the only way we are going to see change – for when the demand goes down, so will the supply – and supporting organizations like UNICEF who are willing to support our fellow human beings who have been trafficked will too.