Tradition trumps fake meat in Italy

Laboratory-grown meat and cell-based food production may be banned in Italy, with a view to protecting tradition.

WORLD MARCH 31. 2023 11:26

The Italian government has recently approved a bill banning the use of laboratory-produced food and animal feed, with the primary aim of protecting the country’s agri-food industry heritage, the Minister of Agriculture said.

If the proposal is adopted by the Parliament, Italian industry will not be allowed to produce food or feed from different cell cultures or tissues from vertebrate animals. In the case of a breach, the authorities can impose fines of up to 60,000 euros. The bill also stipulates that producers may forfeit their eligibility for public funding for up to three years and that farms that violate the law may be shut down.

„In our view, laboratory products do not guarantee quality, welfare, and the protection of our culture and traditions,” Minister Francesco Lollobrigida, a prominent figure in Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s party said.

The Meloni cabinet has also pledged to protect Italian food from technological innovations deemed harmful, and the Ministry of Agriculture has been renamed the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty.

The Coldiretti agricultural group backs the effort to outlaw synthetic foods, arguing that it’s necessary to do so in order to protect domestic production from multinational companies.

The initiative has angered organisations supporting the development of cell-based agricultural products across Europe, as well as animal rights groups.

„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,” said Alice Ravenscroft, head of policy at the Good Food Institute Europe.

Food companies’ network Cellular Agriculture Europe said Italy was limiting options for consumers who are concerned about animal welfare and the environmental impact of their food choices. Anti-vivisection group LAV called the bill „an ideological, anti-scientific crusade against progress”. It said lab-meat, which is produced from the cells of living animals, represented a good alternative to intensive breeding and slaughtering.

The ban on cell-based meat is not the only initiative from Giorgia Meloni’s cabinet to block non-conventional food from being served on Italian tables. Last week, she said that in order to protect traditional Italian food products, the government was preparing a rush of decrees to introduce information labels on products containing, or derived from, insects, amid a debate on the use of cricket flour.



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