ITALY – Italy has become the first country to officially slam the brakes on the global surge of cultured meat, igniting a heated clash between tradition and innovation.

The Italian government’s recent vote to ban the production, sale, or import of cultured meat and animal feed has thrust the nation into uncharted territory, sending shockwaves through the burgeoning industry that promises a humane, sustainable alternative to traditional protein sources.

The battleground? Italy’s lower house of parliament, where a contentious vote saw 159 representatives favoring the ban against 53 in opposition. The clash reached a fever pitch, with a scuffle breaking out between impassioned Italian farmers and Members of Parliament.

The driving force behind the ban is a fervent defense of Italian tradition and cultural heritage, according to Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida.

Critics argue that Italy’s bold stance risks economic isolation, as other nations forge ahead in scaling up their cultured meat industries to meet the anticipated global demand.

Julia Martin, Cellular Agriculture Lead at ProVeg International, asserts that Italy’s move could hinder the country both economically and environmentally, stalling progress in the fight against climate change.

“Cultivated meat has huge animal welfare benefits as it enables meat production without causing harm to animals. Also, land freed up by cultivated meat can be rewilded to enable biodiversity to flourish,” Martin highlights.

A patchwork of regulations emerges

Italy’s controversial decision raises questions about the global future of cultured meat. The European Union has yet to grant official approval for any cell-based products, but German food manufacturer TCB, a subsidiary of Infamily Foods, has entered the pre-submission process for its “sausage from controlled cultivation.”

Other cell-based innovators are reportedly gearing up for similar applications to the European Safety Authority (EFSA).

The Good Food Institute (GFI) condemns Italy’s move, arguing that it stifles innovation and blocks sustainable development.

Francesca Gallelli, a public affairs consultant at GFI, expresses concern about the potential violation of the single market, urging the EU to scrutinize the proposed law.

“This bill not only deprives consumers of choice but also isolates Italy from the investment and job creation offered by this burgeoning industry. The debate surrounding cultivated meat in Italy has been fueled by misinformation, as hearings in the Senate intentionally excluded cultivated meat companies and supporters while allowing false claims from opponents of this sustainable food,” Francesca Gallelli, public affairs consultant at the GFI, told Food Ingredients First.

Opposition in the U.S

The clash between tradition and technology is not confined to Italy. In Florida, Republican Tyler Sirois is pushing for legislation that would criminalize the sale of cultured meat in the state from July 2024, aligning with the state’s Agriculture Commissioner, Wilton Simpson.

This move contrasts sharply with the U.S. government’s supportive stance on cultured products.

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