The Courbevoie (Parisian suburb) republican politician and former UDF (French Democratic Union), Arash Derambarsh, is waging an unprecedented fight against food-waste in France and abroad. He will soon be publishing his third book after having released « Manifeste contre le gaspillage alimentaire » in 2015 and « Comment peut-on être de droite aujourd’hui? » in 2006. Today, Arash Derambarsh exports his anti-waste determination internationally and more specifically in Canada by working hand in hand with Justin Trudeau and Ruth Ellen Brosseau. The man who forced supermarkets to donate food agreed to discuss with us and help us find out more about his political convictions and ambitions.
Eatizz: To what extent can technology support you in your fight?
Arash: Today, what’s of importance is knowing how to and sharing your knowledge. When you’re elected and you become aware of a problem in the field, you quickly must notify the higher ranked. I am like a football player : a number 6, a playmaker. I recover the ball from defense and pass the ball to the attack so they can score.
In this metaphor, Arash compares the defense with associations and citizens and the attack with deputies and senators that vote the law.
A: So how do they score the goal? I have to convince them to take the ball, tell them « Listen, this is the problem » and use all the means put at my disposal (social networks, videos, photos) in order to detect a problem. Once found, you must locate it, identify it and raise the citizens’ awareness to then put pressure and make the senator and deputies vote the law.
E: Do you think that 2.0 actions can have more impact than traditional media?
A: Yes, all the way. Nowadays, I make my own media, I don’t need to go through the mainstream media to get things moving. It’s also important not to despise these types of media and aim for a broader target, for example, in a fight against hunger. In France, 10 million people are hungry, they don’t have any money left on their bank account after the 10th of the month. We can’t let these things happen, this fight is bigger than us and we must act hand in hand.
In 1979, Arash Derambarsh’s parents flee Iran’s Islamist regime to give life to his brother and him in France. Arash views his fight against hunger as a duty and owes it to France for giving him an access to culture, knowledge, health, and education. With in mind the plan to be elected after his studies, Mr Derambarsh aimed to vote a law preventing the French from hunger as he experienced it at the time. While asking Arash about what led him to success in France, he rushed to emphasize the importance of the determination and time invested in the field.
A: You know, what are politics, really? It’s taking a personal problem and finding a general solution. In this case, it’s a general issue, hunger is everywhere and concerns all continents. What are we talking about exactly? We’re talking of 10 million tons of consumables thrown in the garbage, while 10% of France’s population finds it hard to eat well. In the United States, it is 35 million tons whereas besides, 1 in 6 Americans doesn’t have a secure access to food. It’s the same problem everywhere, and why? The problem of food waste is the tip of the iceberg.
E: What differentiates your strategy in North America from the one in Europe?
A: In Europe the reasoning revolves around the social aspect. There are 100 million Europeans who are malnourished. These are audible figures in Europe. What is audible on the American continent is how much money is lost. That’s the contrast. For example, in Canada, the first argument is that 31 billion dollars are lost from food-waste. That is to say that the support is first put on restoring money and then on the fact that this food could be redistributed to the 852,137 Canadians officially registered at the food bank.
Today, thanks to the Arash’s food-waste campaign, many countries have agreed to apply the same law as in France, including the countries of the European Union, Romania, Chile, Congo, and soon Turkey and Mexico. Arash mentions his intention to approach the United States of America and hopes to convince them of the general, social, environmental and economic advantages that come with this law.
E: What do you see as the biggest obstacle in implementing such policies?
A: It’s simple, conflicts of interest and corruption.
There is an unimaginable pressure exerted by food lobbies. They send letters to every MP saying : « If you vote this law, we will withdraw subsidies to the cultural and sports associations of the cities you are elected in. We will relocate its supermarkets. »
It’s a real conflict of interest.
A: Petitions have played a major role in the law. I wrote two with Mathieu Kassovitz. The first, French, made over 200,000 signatures. The second, European, supported by the French Red Cross and actions against hunger, was signed by over 820,000 people. This has an impact. You are exerting pressure, citizens are a lot more connected, there is a brainstorming of shared ideas and information. We must know one thing, the food industry’s system is divided into 4 points: production, processing, distribution and consumption. This system is unfortunately corrupt and completely falsified. When the producer, (i.e. the farmer) finds himself selling at loss, he will be forced to put pesticides on his products, which leads to cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, cholesterol and many cancers. On the other hand, there is a too much being produced, which calls for slaughterhouses, battery farming, and the middle class’ purchasing power decline… The only winners in this story are the food lobbies and pesticide producers. The system is therefore to be rebuilt entirely, from head to toe, in order to avoid the environment being polluted.
Arash will be, in mid-March, releasing his 3rd book with Eric De Lachesnais, who is the head of the Food Agribusiness of the figaro.
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