In a world where vegetarians and vegans are getting more and more numerous, the Italian government has just voted a somewhat controversial law. Proposed in April, the right-wing government has now banned the production, sale and import of cultivated meat or animal feed in an act of what they call “defence of Italian tradition”.
Concretely, the law bans any synthetic foods which are produced using animal cells without actually killing the animal. Moreover, the use of meat-related words for describing plant-based products will be banned.
Even though at this moment human consumption of lab-grown meat has only been approved in the United States and Singapore, Italy has taken a clear stance against the practice. Everyone who challenges the ban faces a fine up to 60,000 euros. The European Union still views lab-grown meat as “novel food” at this point but once this changes, the EU could very well challenge Italy’s newly adopted law.
“In Europe, we do not have such products yet on the market… because they are considered by regulators, the European Commission and member states as a novel food and that requires a safety assessment by EFSA (the European Food Safety Authority), authorisation by member states and the European Commission”, Wolfgang Gelbmann, a senior scientific officer at EFSA, said in September, adding that no one had asked them for approval yet.
Italy’s minister of agriculture, Francesco Lollobrigida, a member of Italy’s prime minister’s far right Brothers of Italy party, sees the newly adopted law as a big win. Just one year ago, he declared he would try to prevent any “synthetic food” from being approved in Italy.
“We are safeguarding our food, our system of nutrition, by maintaining the relationship between food, land and human labour that we have enjoyed for millennia. We have to protect our workers, our agricultural entrepreneurs and citizens who have the right to eat well”, Lollobrigida declared.
Professor Elena Cattaneo, who is an Italian senator and bioscience specialist, has already called out the law for being “emotive” and “cartoon-like” for classifying natural food as something good and cultivated food as bad. Members from the opposition and animal welfare groups, join her in that position.