The Italian government has passed legislation that would ban lab-grown foods and face heavy fines for those who make or sell them, a proposal that is part of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s crusade to protect “Made in Italy” products.
Meloni celebrated with farmers after her cabinet passed measures Tuesday night that would see fines of up to €60,000 and confiscation of “synthetic food”. The proposed penalties, which the Italian Parliament would have to enact into law, concern both food and animal feed.
A supporter of the law was a close associate of Meloni, Francesco Lollobrigida, who is Minister for Agriculture, Food Sovereignty and Forests. His ministry’s title is new, reflecting Meloni’s right-wing coalition government’s focus on domestic produce.
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A government statement said the ban on laboratory-grown food had been proposed “taking into account the precautionary principle” to protect human health and Italy’s “agricultural heritage”.
Meloni’s five-month-old coalition has a comfortable majority in parliament, but Italy’s legislative process is usually lengthy and there has been no indication of when such legislation could become a reality.
“We could not help but celebrate with our farmers a measure that puts Italy at the forefront on an issue not only in the defense of excellence, an issue of particular importance to us, but also on the issue of consumer protection,” said Meloni after the Cabinet meeting outside the Prime Minister’s office.
Members of Italy’s powerful agricultural lobby, Coldiretti, a major source of voices especially in the north of the country, were on hand to clap for the Italian leader.
The lobby said around 500,000 Italians had signed petitions as part of a campaign it launched to show their support for the proposed measures. It said the appeal aims to save “Made in Italy” on the dinner table from onslaught by multinationals pioneering lab-grown meat.
Agriculture is a mainstay of the Italian economy. Last month, Coldiretti estimated that Italian food exports, including wine, were valued at more than 60 billion euros ($65 billion) last year.
Campaigns against lab-grown meat run counter to efforts by environmentalists to limit greenhouse gases, much of which is produced by agriculture, particularly the cattle industry.
According to the US Food and Drug Administration, no foods made from cultured animal cells are currently available in the United States. The process, which the FDA calls an “emerging area of food science,” involves taking small numbers of cells from live animals and growing them in a controlled environment to produce food.
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Manufacturers are currently working to ramp up their processes to target volumes large enough to command competitive pricing.
Meloni has long railed against food trends that run counter to Italy’s classic Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruit and vegetables, as well as pasta and fish. During her election campaign last year, she has repeatedly criticized European Union rules regulating the use of insects for human consumption, saying the bloc should have focused more on energy policy than niche foods.
Separately, the Minister of Agriculture announced that the government had signed four decrees regulating meal made from insects such as crickets. The decrees state that the labels must make it clear to consumers that the flour contains crushed insects.
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The Meloni government is promoting Italian cuisine for possible designation as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Agency.
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