APN | Amman
29 March 2023
TV presenter Mohammad Faraj hosted Razan Zuayter, APN Chairperson of the Board, on Al-Mayadeen TV, to discuss the cultural and economic dimensions of food waste and its relationship to climate problems.
Zuayter differentiated between the terms "food loss," which occurs unavoidably in low-income countries and is primarily in the first stages of agricultural production where there is no adequate infrastructure during planting, harvesting, and marketing, and "food waste," which is more prevalent in high-income countries contrary to what is promoted. In Europe, for example, the rate of food waste reaches around 115 kg/person/year compared to 9 kg/person/year in Africa, and percentage-wise, according to the United Nations, 17% of food is wasted and 11% is lost.
Regarding the impact of the cultural aspect on food waste, Zuayter mentioned that our Arab-Islamic culture and even popular culture encourage avoiding wasting water and food. She criticized capitalist countries and consumerist cultures that prevent food companies from disclosing waste statistics since the problem is unacceptable, despite the fact that the rates are unmistakably high.
Moreover, Zuayter pointed to the food waste strategies of large food companies to maintain high prices for their products, where they flood markets in low-income countries with surplus crops or penetrate new markets and weaken local production, as is happening with wheat, where our markets are flooded with surplus wheat from countries that produce it, so we cannot produce our own wheat. Zuayter emphasized that the issue is political and related to controlling the world's food systems.
Zuayter also explained that while the World Trade Organization (WTO) imposes its conditions of not protecting or assisting farmers or their products, the organization applies double standards to protect farmers in Europe and the United States when enforcing global policies. Zuayter stressed the need to protect and support farmers and urged for Arab agricultural integration as a means of facing these dangers and achieving food sovereignty in the Arab world.
Regarding the relationship between food waste and climate change, Zuayter pointed out that 10% of emissions are caused by food waste, and that methane gas, which is released when waste is dumped in landfills, is just as dangerous as carbon dioxide.
As for the global discourse on legislation to combat food waste, Zuayter said that major countries are preparing legislation on this matter, some of which have already become effective as in France. However, she emphasized the need to raise awareness about this issue from a young age, in addition to fighting the capitalist consumerist model. From another perspective, there must be significant investment in agricultural manufacturing to reduce losses as well.
Zuayter also stressed not to trust companies that put expiry dates on their products because often this date does not indicate the end of the product's shelf life but is instead used to encourage consumers to buy more of the products.
When asked how to coordinate between the global track that seeks to conclude climate agreements, preserve the climate, and find solutions to accumulating climate crises and the other track that seeks to reduce food waste, Zuayter said that there is no global political will to reduce climate change, as was witnessed and observed at COP-27 in Sharm El-Sheikh. Therefore, for this coordination to be possible, there must be a political will from major countries that cause climate change to reduce and stop their emissions. However, she believes that there could be pressure from civil society in international and regional platforms to expose this issue and try to push countries and major organizations to find a solution.
Zuayter concluded the interview by saying that to combat poverty and hunger, their root causes must be addressed. Solving food waste in the responsible country does not mean that the world's poor population will have food to eat. The root causes of the solution lie in justice in distributing food, fair access to its production resources, and food sovereignty.