If signed into law, the new bill will ban the Italian food industry from manufacturing any food or animal feed that uses cellular agriculture technology utilizing animal cells, including cultivated meat.
Georgia Meloni’s right-wing government has backed a bill to ban the production and sale of “synthetic foods” in Italy.
The move is motivated by the seemingly inconclusive clinical evidence on the efficacy of synthetic foods, particularly cultivated meat. Moreover, the government wants to protect the country’s food heritage with this legislation.
The government further explained that the proposal would also protect citizens’ health and the country’s agricultural sector.
Francesco Lollobrigida, the minister of agriculture, food sovereignty, and forestry policies, said: “Laboratory products do not guarantee quality, well-being or the protection of the Italian food and wine culture and tradition, to which part of our tradition is linked.”
Implication of the proposed law
The proposed law, which covers all cultivated food products such as meat, fish, and dairy, would apply to producers and sellers if approved by the parliament.
Those found violating the rules thereafter might face a hefty fine ranging from €10,000 to €60,000, and factories that ignore the law would be forced to shut down.
Local farmers praised the decision, which also seems to align with a common negative opinion among Italian consumers when it comes to consuming artificially produced foods.
A recent survey in Italia a Tavola indicated that a whopping 84% of Italians opposed the idea of consuming lab-grown foods.
‘Shut down the economic potential’
However, animal welfare activists and NGOs have fiercely criticized the government’s move. According to them, cultivated products could potentially reduce growing greenhouse gas emissions and future food insecurity.
Following news of the bill, Alice Ravenscroft, Head of Policy at the Good Food Institute Europe, commented: “The passing of such a law would shut down the economic potential of this nascent field in Italy, holding back scientific progress and climate mitigation efforts, and limiting consumer choice.
“It could prevent Italian scientists from undertaking crucial work, and ban Italian cultivated meat startups from existing at all.”
Cultivate meat trajectory in other countries
While Italy moves to protect its traditions by banning innovations, other EU countries such as the Netherlands are making strides in developing more innovative and cultivated foods.
Last year, it allocated €60 million for the R&D of cultivated meat and precision fermentation. Meanwhile, Spain invested €5.2 million in 2021 to research the potential of cultivated meat in reducing diet-related diseases.
Furthermore, the UK government announced a £20 million funding call for sustainable proteins (including cultivated meat).
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also green lighted cell-cultured chicken for human consumption after “careful evaluation”.
Although the EU has not yet approved cultivated meat, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has said that cell-based agriculture, such as cultured meat, “could be considered a promising and innovative solution…for healthy and environmentally friendly food systems”.
‘Let Italians make up their own minds’
Ravenscroft argued that “Italy would be left behind as the rest of Europe and the world progresses towards a more sustainable and secure food system.”
“The EU already has a robust regulatory process in place for confirming the safety of new foods like cultivated meat, and regulators in the United States and Singapore have already found it to be safe,” she added.
“The government should let Italians make up their own minds about what they want to eat, instead of stifling consumer freedom.”
Anti-vivisection group LAV echoed Ravencroft’s sentiment. The organization termed the bill “an ideological, anti-scientific crusade against progress.” It said lab-meat presented a good alternative to intensive breeding and slaughtering.
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