Ad­vice for the world: Clean your plate

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FRONT PAGE -

THE com­mon carp is an ugly fish that no one, or at least not many Man­i­to­bans, wants to eat very much. It is edible, but so are tofu and mush­room soup and just be­cause you can choke them down to avoid star­va­tion doesn’t mean that you will seek them out in bet­ter times.

It is a pity, how­ever, that carp isn’t ac­com­mo­dat­ing to our palates be­cause, ac­cord­ing to the Univer­sity of Win­nipeg, the carp “biomass” in Lake Win­nipeg may ex­ceed all other fish com­bined. That means that a lot of carp and other “junk fish” are wasted when they are caught on fish­er­men’s lines or in their nets. There isn’t re­ally any com­mer­cial use for them so they are just left to go to wher­ever dead fish go when they die.

The Univer­sity of Win­nipeg, how­ever, un­der pres­i­dent Lloyd Ax­wor­thy’s man­date of com­mu­nity rel­e­vance, is work­ing in co-op­er­a­tion with the fish­ery on projects that would see “zero waste” of carp, turn­ing the junk fish into bio­fu­els, nu­traceu­ti­cals, or­ganic fer­til­iz­ers for farms and carp roe — why not cast our line a lit­tle fur­ther and call it “carp caviar” — for an al­ready de­vel­op­ing ex­port mar­ket. It would mean no waste, no want and more money for fish­er­men.

It also marks a path for a waste­ful world to take. Any­one who has ever been a child, which in­cludes most of you, knows that, when eat­ing, we should clean our plates be­cause there are chil­dren starv­ing in China or Africa or wher­ever, as moth­ers have for­ever re­lent­lessly re­minded their chil­dren. Un­for­tu­nately, it doesn’t seem to ever have had any ef­fect — the United Na­tions Food and Agri­cul­tural Or­ga­ni­za­tion re­ports that world­wide, 30 per cent to 50 per cent of all food pro­duced is wasted.

That doesn’t in­clude just fat, rich Western­ers who, hav­ing pushed their waist­bands as far they can for one day, leave half a plate of fast-food on their restau­rant’s groan­ing boards (in the in­ter­ests of full dis­clo­sure, I con­fess that at a re­cent lunch at the Univer­sity of Win­nipeg I left some food on my plate which I can only hope was then re­cy­cled for stu­dents).

Those fig­ures are also true of coun­tries where peo­ple are ac­tu­ally starv­ing, al­though the cir­cum­stance may be dif­fer­ent for fam­i­lies too poor to af­ford re­frig­er­a­tors, freez­ers, stor­age cup­boards or doggy bags.

Al­most none of this food is or can be re­cy­cled in any use­ful way, such as us­ing carp bio­fuel or fer­til­izer — it is sim­ply waste, an ex­tra­or­di­nary 110 mil­lion tons of food a year, ac­cord­ing to The Econ­o­mist. But if the Univer­sity of Win­nipeg can cre­ate a use­ful carp, then it opens other paths to in­creas­ing food pro­duc­tion, per­haps, by di­vert­ing at least a lit­tle corn from au­to­mo­biles that run on ethanol to the din­ner ta­bles of the Third World. That would be an un­com­mon carp, in­deed.

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