A Meat and Dairy Article from All-Creatures.org

Italy Withdraws Bill To Ban Cultivated Meat - But Is It Permanent?

From Amy Jones, SpeciesUnite.com
October 2023

While it might seem like Italy's government is changing its position on cultivated meat, experts suggest that the withdrawal is a strategic move to avoid the European Commission rejecting the bill outright.

Image from Good Food Institute

The Italian government has withdrawn a draft law that would ban the production and marketing of cultivated meat products.

In March of this year, the country’s rightwing government, backed by the country’s biggest farmer’s association, proposed a draft law to ban cultivated food in Italy, claiming it is a threat to the traditional slaughter-based meat industry. Those who produced, exported or imported food grown from animal cells could face fines up to nearly $64,000.

The draft bill drew widespread criticism from the opposition party, as well as environmental and animal activists. Riccardo Magi, the president of the small leftwing party Più Europa, said the government had “created a new crime”.

“This time they are taking it out on synthetic food and prefer to continue with their reckless prohibition instead of doing research and developing a technology that could allow us to pollute and kill less,” Magi said.

Good Food Institute (GFI) Europe, an NGO working to make the global food system more sustainable, explained that the Italian government’s decision puts it at odds with the rest of Europe, where other governments are investing in cultivated meat.

“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, and limiting consumer choice,” said Alice Ravenscroft, Head of Policy at GFI Europe.

“It could prevent Italian scientists from undertaking crucial work, and ban Italian cultivated meat startups from existing at all. Italy would be left behind as the rest of Europe and the world progresses towards a more sustainable and secure food system. And the 54% of Italians who already want to try cultivated meat would be banned from doing so.”

Despite the pushback, the Senate of the Italian Republic approved the bill on 19 July, with 60 percent of senators supporting the ban.

Paused for Now

As with all legislation that may impact the EU single market, the bill is required to be examined by the European Commission and EU member states before it can be adopted, through the procedure called , according to GFI Europe.

Media reports from the Italian press claim that the government withdrew it from this process “"for an in-depth study of the issues covered by the bill, in light of the ongoing parliamentary discussion and the amendments that the text could suffer".

However, while it might seem like Italy's government is changing its position on the bill, experts suggest that the withdrawal is a strategic move to avoid an outright rejection, especially given the negative views expressed by some EU member states regarding the draft proposal.

“The withdrawal of the notification can be seen as a way to avoid an official rejection by the European Commission, and at the moment marks a stop to this measure,” explained Claudio Pomo, Development Manager at Essere Animali, Italy’s leading animal advocacy organization.

“Good news for now, but it is not yet a definitive victory and we must not lower our guard,” added Pomo. “Minister Lollobrigida has already said that he wants to continue with this battle and there will certainly be other moves. We will be prepared to fight back to promote foods that do not derive from animal suffering.”

Europe Embracing Sustainable Solutions

The Italian government's anti-cultivated meat stance sets it apart from the rest of Europe, as other European governments are allocating funds for the advancement of cultivated meat.

The Netherlands recently unveiled a €60 million government funding commitment for research and development in the field of cultivated meat and precision fermentation. Meanwhile, the UK government initiated a funding opportunity of £16 million for sustainable proteins, which encompasses cultivated meat. Additionally, the Spanish government has invested €5.2 million in a project aimed at exploring how cultivated meat could contribute to the prevention of diet-related diseases.

Gallelli said: “We hope that the step backwards on the European examination indicates the government’s willingness to modify the text of the bill on cultured meat, guaranteeing compliance with Union law.

“Only a week ago, however, the parliamentary majority rejected all the changes to the text in the House Commission, including those that intended to harmonise the bill with European legislation, resolving its numerous and important critical issues.”

She added: “We hope that Parliament will avoid the adoption of a law that would cause a fragmentation of the European single market and would hinder the sustainable growth of the country, also causing immediate damage to Italian companies in the sector.” 

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