Why Italy wants to ban lab-grown meat

The Italian parliament voted to endorse a law banning the production, sale or import of lab-grown meat.

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Lab-grown meat is something that has been gaining momentum in recent years. And although pioneering countries such as Singapore or the United States have revolutionized the market by starting to regulate the sale of this type of meat, there are also other governments that are completely opposed to it. One of these countries is Italy. The current conservative government has just voted in the Italian parliament in favor of a law banning the production, sale or import of lab-grown meat or animal feed.

This law would also impose heavy penalties for those who fail to comply, with fines of up to 60,000 euros. The bill was approved by 159 votes in favor and 53 against. And one of the arguments promoted by the Italian government is that it does so to preserve the culture, lifestyle and food of Italians.

“We are safeguarding our food, our nutrition system, maintaining the relationship between food, land and human labor that we have enjoyed for millennia,” declared the Italian Minister of Agriculture, Francesco Lollobrigida, on Italian television. There are also other voices against the law, such as Professor Elena Cattaneo, senator and specialist in biosciences, who believes that it is a pamphlet that classifies natural foods as good and laboratory-grown foods as bad, and made from “mad cells in bioreactors”.

Waiting for the EU

For the moment this bill will have little effect, since the European Union has not yet approved the sale of lab-grown meat, which is classified as “novel foods”. Where it is approved for human consumption is in countries such as Singapore and the United States.

“In Europe, we do not yet have products of this type on the market because regulators, the European Commission and member states consider them a novel food and that requires a safety assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), authorization by member states and the European Commission”, EFSA explains.

For the time being, if the matter were to go ahead in Italy, any synthetic food made from animal cells – without killing the animal – would be banned, in addition to the prohibition of using words related to meat in the labeling of products with proteins of vegetable origin. For their part, critics of the law reaffirm that there is nothing synthetic in this type of meat, since it originates from the growth of natural cells without genetic modification. Animal welfare groups are also affected by this decision, because for them it is an ideal solution to protect the environment and be more sustainable.