Saturday, March 21, 2015

Food Fight!

The world's war today includes food ... among other things related to money.

In places where people go hungry, it's the money makers and power players that channel the food available to the highest bidder. There is no food shortage.

It's not a new tactic.  In the six year 'Potato Famine', a million Irish poor died unnecessarily and another million fled the country because business and government consciously chose against them in their time of need.  There was plenty of food.


Sixty years before, "... Ireland had a famine in 1782–83, ports were closed to keep Irish-grown food in Ireland to feed the Irish. Local food prices promptly dropped. Merchants lobbied against the export ban, but government overrode their protests.[76] No such export ban happened in the 1840s.[77]
Throughout the six years of the Potato Famine, Ireland was exporting enormous quantities of food. ... "Although the potato crop failed, the country was still producing and exporting more than enough grain crops to feed the population. But that was a 'money crop' and not a 'food crop' and could not be interfered with."[78]
... Almost 4,000 ships carried food from Ireland to the ports of Bristol, Glasgow, Liverpool and London during 1847 alone, when 400,000 Irish men, women and children died of starvation and related diseases. ,,, exports of calves, livestock (except pigs), bacon and ham actually increased during the Famine. ...  peas, beans, onions, rabbits, salmon, oysters, herring, lard, honey... 822,681 imperial gallons of butter ... The problem in Ireland was not lack of food, which was plentiful, but the price of it, which was beyond the reach of the poor.[80]"

Now as the food business continues to pursue the money, for the first time in human history the number of overweight people rivals the number of underweight people, according to a report from the Worldwatch Institute. While the world's underfed population has declined slightly since 1980 to 1.1 billion, the number of overweight people has surged to 1.1 billion.

Both the overweight and the underweight suffer from malnutrition, a deficiency or excess of what is needed for healthy living.

The public health impact is stunning.  More than half of the world's disease burden - measured in "years of healthy life lost"- is attributable to hunger, overeating, and dietary imbalance. "The century with the greatest potential to eliminate malnutrition instead saw it boosted to record levels," according to recent research.

In a world without any food shortage, it's still hard to get a healthy meal for many folks.

In the developed world, folks are barely aware of the differences between processed food and natural, and little emphasis is placed on balance. 

In the developing world, access to the right foods for a balanced diet is perhaps the greatest challenge.

Again, in places where people go hungry, it's the money makers and power players that channel the food available to the greatest return instead of the greatest need.  The same applies at the far end of the availability spectrum where sales are more important than health.  Eating is marketed as recreational and the end product is unhealthy overweight.  The 'healthy eaters' among us and the 'health food stores' are a miniscule minority.

All in all, the marketplace is orchestrated to sell rather than to serve well. 

Among our family friends in east and west Africa, many of the children are under height for age and under weight for height due to a lack of protein.  It wasn't a problem for the coastal villages until the fish populations were destroyed by illegal commercial fishing.  My fishermen friends tell me they remember catching tuna regularly within a mile or so of the shore.  These days, they go out 10-20 kilometers in their sailing dugouts and often come home with nothing.  Sometimes, they don't come back.

These are just normal, hardworking folks who can pretty much take care of themselves, except they're being robbed by the rich countries illegally fishing in their territorial waters.

In the world of food, there's something missing if the only driver is money, it seems.  I wonder how things might best be adjusted at the personal and national level.

See more of the story here.