Exterminating the Amaranth

Amaranth, one of the oldest grains in the world, is at risk from GM technology.


| Summer 2017



Amaranth grains

Amaranth has the highest iron content among cereal grains, is rich in complex carbohydrates, protein, and calcium, and is nearly 500 percent rcher in carotene than GE "Golden Rice."

Photo by Flickr/orphanjones

Amaranth is a sacred grain, from the Himalaya to the Andes, for Indian civilization and the civilizations of Meso-America. First cultivated by the Indigenous peoples of the Americas — notably the Aztecs — it is one of the oldest grains in the world. The root word amara, in both Greek and Sanskrit, means “eternal” or “deathless.” Yet today amaranth is under threat from modern agro-industry.

Varieties of amaranth grow all over India. Its leaves contain more iron than spinach and have a more delicate taste. Apart from rice bran, amaranth grain has the highest content of iron amongst cereals. Thus, adding amaranth flour to wheat/rice flour is a cheap and healthy way to prevent nutritional anemia, rather than buying expensive tablets, tonics, health drinks, and so on.

Amaranth is extremely rich in complex carbohydrates and in protein. It has 12–18 percent more protein than other cereals, and is particularly high in lysine, an essential amino acid. Amaranth grain is also one of the richest sources of calcium.

Amaranth greens are incredible edibles that grow uncultivated in our fields. They are a major source of protein, calcium, phosphorus, carotene, vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, sodium, and potassium. Amaranth is nearly 500 percent richer in carotene than the genetically modified “Golden Rice,” which is being promoted as a means of addressing vitamin A deficiency in some of the world’s poorest countries.

In many parts of the world, therefore, the poorest, landless woman and her children have access to nutrition through the generous gift of the amaranth. Yet, just as during the Spanish colonial era cultivating amaranth was made illegal in Mexico, so in our time modern industrial agriculture has treated amaranth greens as “weeds” and tried to kill them with herbicides.

Then came Monsanto, with the company’s “Roundup Ready” crops, genetically engineered to resist Roundup pesticide, so that the GM crop would survive while everything else that was green was killed. A Monsanto spokesman explained this philosophy thus: herbicide-resistant GMOs “prevent the weeds from stealing the
sunshine!”