The Malta Independent 14 July 2024, Sunday
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PN MP proposes food waste law, says malnutrition overlooked

Andrew Izzo Clarke Sunday, 30 April 2023, 07:30 Last update: about 2 years ago

Nationalist MP Ivan Bartolo believes that malnutrition is overlooked by society, and is proposing a law which would limit food waste and at the same time see that no citizen is deprived of healthy, fresh and nutritive products that would enhance their quality of life.

“I think that malnutrition, food waste and food insecurity are overlooked, and this is not just in Malta,” Bartolo told The Malta Independent on Sunday in an interview.

The impact of food waste on the environment and natural resources is on the rise which has also been exacerbated by the situation in Ukraine.

The PN, he says, is working on legislation regarding food waste in a bid to increase the sustainability of the production, distribution and consumption of food.

Can you name some of the people that inspired you to fight for social justice?

Some names that spring to mind include Oscar Romero, the Salvadoran archbishop who spoke out against social injustice and violence; Mahatma Gandhi, the anti-colonial nationalist who secured Indian independence from Britain and Rosa Parks, an American activist in the Civil Rights movement. These are only the first few names that come to mind, there are many others too.

Can you explain the current state of the country in regards to poverty issues; has there been any progress or backsliding, in the past few years?

It’s a very simple situation. The economy may be expanding but not everybody is benefiting from the expansion of the economic pie. Profits may be growing but people’s incomes have yet to catch up and the worst affected are those workers who are earning the least. We used to have a strong middle class but nowadays we can ask: where is this middle class?

You presented the Nationalist Party’s vision for a socially just Malta in the form of four proposals in 2022: The establishment of an autonomous and independent structure ‘Poverty Watch’, a minimum living income, shelters for the homeless and the promotion of more corporate social responsibility in the interest of the common good.

The aim of the Poverty Watch structure is not to produce an arcane academic document about poverty but rather to provide the government with an overview of the reality that people are experiencing every day. It will have three primary objectives: to monitor key trends and policy on poverty and social exclusion, to raise awareness about priority issues and to propose concrete recommendations backed by evidence.

While the current government did implement measures to ease the problem of poverty in the country, these are merely short-term measures and we need to look beyond them. Currently there are 100,000 people who are at risk of poverty, as well as 3,500 people who are on minimum pay in Malta. The PN won’t solve poverty once and for all, but when elected will definitely put these on the table to be discussed.

Malta has seen increases in the amount of migrants landing on our shores in the past 10 years, which has no doubt contributed to the present levels of inequality that we’re now experiencing. Can you discuss the challenges faced by immigrants in Malta and how your campaign aims to address these issues?

Since immigration is a universal issue, the challenges faced by immigrants in Malta are similar to challenges faced by immigrants in other parts of the world. This issue, therefore, has to be tackled in a joint effort with the European bloc, as part of a holistic approach.

Regarding the migrants that arrive on our shores, I am concerned about the lack of certain basic conditions at the detention and open centres, as well as the lack of an integration system for those granted asylum. I’m also alarmed at the scorn heaped on these migrants for fulfilling basic jobs in society that the Maltese are no longer willing to do.

While this country cannot address this issue on its own and our geographical size is definitely restrictive, we need to ensure that immigrants granted asylum do not fall into poverty cycles or create ghettos, but are able to add value to our society by being granted learning opportunities, work or training experiences.

In 2022, you also proposed changing the organ donation system from an opt-in to an opt-out model and you claim that over 80% of those surveyed would be in favour of organ donation. What steps need to be taken to implement the 'opt-out' system for organ donation in Malta, and what potential obstacles might need to be overcome?

The proposal I put forward in 2022 was mainly meant to improve the effectiveness and resources of our organ donation system. In a nutshell, an opt-out system that we suggested automatically presumes the individual’s consent to donate his or her organs after death, unless the individual has opted out from such a donation system during his or her lifetime.

In practice, there are mainly two approaches for an opt-out system: a soft and a hard approach. In the latter, the organs are automatically donated after death if the individuals have not opted out, and the family will have no say in such a decision. While in the soft approach, organs are presumed eligible for donation only after giving the final say to the individual’s family.

In Malta, such a transformation needs a shift in mentality and a solid legal basis and we are still open for discussion about the approach and legal repercussions. While we learnt that a large majority of our population is in favour of an opt-out system, (that is, opting in by default) some might be against the presumed consent for organ donations as this might appear to reduce one’s autonomy to make such a decision or that the government is imposing its decision and basically invading the right to control their own body.

Ultimately, it is up to every individual to think about organ donation, decide if it’s something he or she wants to do and make his or her views clear to their loved ones. If an opt-out system can expedite the process of increasing organ donation, then why shouldn’t we implement it across the board to save and improve as many lives as possible? It is a well-known fact that a single donor can save up to eight lives and a single tissue donor can save up to 75 lives!

Are there any examples of countries that have successfully transitioned from an 'opt-in' to an 'opt-out' system for organ donation, and what lessons can Malta learn from their experiences?

Of course. We have looked at several countries in Europe that have already adopted an opt-out system for organ donations and we considered their models and experiences as important learning curves.

For example, we have assessed and analysed a new opt-out system introduced recently in the UK and another very successful story in Spain. We have studied the system adopted in Austria, which in practice has a 99.98% consent rate for organ donations.

According to a German survey that we have studied in detail, all 24 European countries using the organ opt-out system have reported significant successes, are less likely to have shortages of donated organs and this is correlated with reduced corruption within the system.

What is being overlooked in society at the moment that would help in the reduction of poverty and social justice more generally?

I think that malnutrition, food waste and food insecurity are overlooked, and this is not just in Malta. For me, this issue isn’t merely potentially underrated collateral damage of the pandemic as the Centre for Economic Policy and Research claimed in 2021 or a direct consequence of Russia’s war in Ukraine. It’s also because we take food and nature for granted. I am concerned that in the EU and around the world, climate change and pesticides are killing bees and pollinators, creating a major threat to food security. Moreover, rising food prices are also affecting food consumption and nutritional choices, all factors which contribute towards a low quality of life.

Poverty is linked to all of these factors and, consequently, the PN is attempting to push through legislation regarding food waste in a bid to increase the sustainability of the production, distribution and consumption of food, particularly with regard to the latter two as they are the most wasteful.

Many of the systems put in place in various European countries, among them France, Israel and Denmark, that manage to address food waste are almost entirely dependent on the solidarity and civic sense of the communities. We therefore propose the establishment of a structure, run by associations, to receive food (and possibly medicinal) donations in a structured way from companies with an annual turnover that exceeds a certain limit to the food banks, charitable institutions and soup kitchens. Undoubtedly, this aid needs to meet a number of criteria established by the authorities to ensure that it does not disrupt the market or be used to disrupt the market.

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