This reported piece about maca is required reading for anyone who is interested in what happens when a traditional medicinal plant from a particular region is branded "superfood."
“We estimate that maca began to leave Peru illegally around 2002 and 2003. Today, China produces more maca than Peru,” says Andrés Valladolid, president of the National Commission against Biopiracy at the Peruvian government’s National Institute for the Defence of Competition and Protection of Intellectual Property (Indecopi).
China’s National Health Planning Commission approved maca powder as a new food resource in 2011. A marked rise in Chinese crops followed. Velazco says that by 2014 China had 12,000 hectares of maca sown, while Peru had only 5,000. Chinese state-run news outlet Xinhua claims that there were 1,660 hectares in Yunnan in 2012, which could expand to 13,000 by 2020.
By 2015, Peruvian producers were already feeling the blow. “From exporting about US$5 million in 2014, we went to zero the following year and never exported to China again. We lost customers from Europe and the US, who started buying from China. They even wanted to sell it back to us, can you believe it?” asks Velazco rhetorically.
Six years since maca fever faded in Peru, communities who protected the root for hundreds of years still feel the effects of biopiracy