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Italy to Ban Lab-Grown Meat to Protect Food Heritage

Italy proposes to ban lab-grown meat
Italy proposes to ban lab-grown meat. Credit: World Economic Forum / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

Italy’s government, with a conservative stance, has supported a law that could prohibit the manufacturing of laboratory-generated meat and other artificial edibles. This move aims to safeguard Italian food culture. In the event that this proposal becomes law, anyone who violates it will be subject to a fine of up to $65,000.

Conflict of Opinion

Francesco Lollobrigida, who leads the recently rebranded department for agriculture and food sovereignty, emphasized the significance of Italy’s culinary heritage. The farmers’ interest group praised the decision.

Nevertheless, some animal welfare organizations view the prohibition as a setback, considering lab-grown meat a solution to problems such as reducing carbon emissions and ensuring food safety.

Coldiretti and other farming lobbies have amassed around 500,000 signatures in recent months, calling for the protection of “natural food versus synthetic food.” Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is among those who have signed the petition.

The proposed law was introduced shortly after a series of government decrees prohibited the use of flour made from insects like crickets and locusts in pasta or pizza. The decision was motivated by Italy’s cherished Mediterranean diet, according to the Ministers.

The agriculture minister, Francesco Lollobrigida said, “Laboratory products in our opinion do not guarantee quality, well-being and the protection of our culture, our tradition.”

Lab-Produced Food Products

On Tuesday, March 28, 2023, the Ministers gave their approval to the proposals, which aimed to prohibit synthetic foods that were created from animal cells without harming the animal, including lab-produced fish and synthetic milk.

In November last year, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved cell-cultured chicken for human consumption after a thorough review. In 2020, Singapore granted regulatory approval for the use of lab-grown chicken meat in nuggets.

The European Food Safety Authority has not yet been approached for approval, but it has been suggested within the European Commission that cell-based agriculture, such as cultured meat, could be a “promising and innovative solution” for healthy and environmentally friendly food systems.

Some experts have pointed out that Italy would not be able to prevent the sale of synthetic meat produced within the European Union once it is approved due to the free movement of goods and services.

The International Organization for Animal Protection (Oipa) emphasized that lab-produced meat, although derived from animal cells, is an “ethical alternative” that does not compromise animal welfare, environmental sustainability, or food safety.

However, Paolo Zanetti, who leads the dairy industry group Assolatte, praised the government’s decision to ban synthetic foods made from animal cells.

He explained that milk producers are in a difficult situation: they are being asked to make their product more eco-friendly, while others are promoting an unnatural product under the pretence of being environmentally friendly.

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