How to Feed a Hungry World

Fr. Shay Cullen

Posted Jun 10, 2008      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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How to Feed a Hungry World

by Fr. Shay Cullen

Cloonacool, Ireland.

In a remote and beautiful part of county Sligo in North West Ireland I stood in a low roofed insulated building looking into one of several dozen large fish growing tanks. Thousands of fish called Arctic Charr are swimming around and around growing by the day. Cold, natural, fresh spring water is pouring in from the mountain. It is circulated, filtered and aerated. Bill Carty, the owner, casts a handful of feed pellets into one of the tanks and it churns in a feeding frenzy as this future source of high protein food gobble up their meal. This sustainable form of healthy fish farming has to be the way of the future as fish stocks in oceans and rivers are dangerously declining, some species are already extinct and others are on the edge due to excessive and unsustainable fishing. There are more and more hungry people to feed.

Last week Irish fishermen staged a public protest in Dublin and gave away fish and threw more into the river Liffy to highlight their protest at the strict European Union restrictions on the number of boats allowed to put to sea and the tonnage of fish they are allowed to catch. The price of fish is soaring along with everything else.

The rising price of diesel has diminished their earnings and more and more bans on the use of destructive fishing equipment curtail their catch but protect the breeding habitat of sea grass and coral reefs. What has diminished the fish populations in the once teeming oceans is water pollution and the deadly destructive fishing practices such as the bottom trawl that destroys the corals and the use of drift nets-²walls of death², as they are called.

The EU bans are saving several species of fish from extinction and making large scale ocean fishing unprofitable. Decades of irresponsible destructive fishing practices created millions of tons of ³bycatch² fish, shrimps and crabs and other sea creatures which were thrown back into the sea dead and put some of them on the endangered species list.

The Japanese whaling and shark fishing is condemned world wide as destructive and cruel as they harpoon the gentle creatures and drag them half alive on to factory ships and slaughter them on board. They only cut off the shark¹s fins and throw back the wounded creature to die in a horrible death. These destructive practices have given the fishing industry a bad name. All the more then is the future in sustainable and healthy organic fish farming, as I witnessed in the Cool Spring Arctic Charr fish farm at Cloonacool last week. Bill¹s wife Mari Johnston cooked one fresh Arctic Charr in the nearby kitchen and it was one of the most delicious fish I have ever eaten. All the more am I convinced that the development of the Tilapia fish ponds at our Preda organic farm in Zambales, Philippines, is the right and sensible thing to do.

The greed of money mad moguls is one of the driving forces behind the massive rise in the cost of food commodities world wide. Wealthy traders hoard their stocks forcing prices to soar beyond the ability of the poor to buy food. Since 1992 to the present, the price of rice has risen 74%, soya bean by 87% and wheat by an astounding 130%, corn is up 31% in the same period.

Rich nations give their agri-corporations and wealthy farmers massive subsidies prompting massive over production and the dumping of the surplus in developing nations thus killing off local farming and preventing food security. Rich nations create import taxes that prevent the farmers in Africa from selling their lower priced quality cotton and other products in the rich nations. Many are facing famine as global warming, created by the refusal of wealthy industrialists and politicians to curb CO2 factory emissions and nations like India and China refuse to cutback on fossil fuel consumption. This creates droughts, massive typhoons and crop failures and destruction. Director-General Jacques Diouf of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in Rome last week that there is an additional 820 million hungry people in the world than in 1996. In Somalia alone there are 2.6 million people, 35% of the nation, facing a food crises, none can afford to buy food. The global injustice of this imbalance in the sharing of the planets resources is the greatest shame of all humanity.

Fr. Shay Cullen is at at the Preda Center, Upper Kalaklan, Olongapo City, Philippines.  (Fr. Shay’s columns are published in The Manila Times, in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)