Date of Award

January 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Thomas A. Perreault


certification, commodity chain, indigenous, organic, political ecology, quinoa

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


The rise in popularity for quinua in the Global North, known as the quinua boom, has created an incredible transformation on Bolivia’s altiplano. Over a short period of time, quinua has transitioned from a subsistence crop to an international luxury commodity. By placing the boom in a wider historical context, and detailing two distinct commodity chains through which quinua might flow, I show that the “ecological harmony” championed by the organic commodity chain has not delivered all that it has promised. Despite the long list of standards designed to ensure that quinua is grown organically, the quinua boom has changed the metabolism of production, and produced new natures. Additionally, these standards, enforced by distant and powerful private actors in the Global North, create exclusions as producers are unevenly able to comply with norms, and cope with increasing pest populations and issues of soil degradation. Importantly, certain producers and other actors in Bolivia contest this commodity chain and assert an alternative one in the form of a Denomination of Origin. Placing these commodity chains side by side highlights the power asymmetries of transnational organic agriculture. As some producers, along with the state, reject the organic commodity chain, and envision a new system of governance in which local labor practices, ecology, and culture determine the metabolism between society and nature, these actors call into being the ways in which the organic commodity chain reproduces asymmetrical power relations.


Open Access



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