Austria, France and Italy pushed for putting lab-grown meat on the ‘menu’ of the next gathering of EU agriculture ministers, taking the helm of the 12-country coalition against this food technology.
The countries’ delegations have placed fake meat on the agenda of agriculture ministers meeting in Brussels next week (23 January), the first time the issue will be debated at this level, according to the latest version of the EU Council agenda.
The term lab-grown meat – also known as artificial, cultivated or cell-based meat – refers to edible tissue gleaned from harvesting animal muscle cells which are nurtured in bioreactors where they are fed with protein.
Artificial meat has recently drawn ire from far-right and conservative parties across Europe. Last November, Italy’s Parliament approved a ban on the production, consumption, and marketing of cell-based meat, even though no lab-grown meat foodstuff has been authorised in the EU so far.
The note to the Belgian presidency of the EU Council was put forward by Austria, France, and Italy and also supported by the Czech, Cypriot, Greek, Hungarian, Luxembourg, Lithuanian, Maltese, Romanian, and Slovak delegations.
The “new laboratory cultivated food production” raises ethical and economic questions, as well as social issues and public health concerns, the anti-fake meat coalition stressed.
As a result, they ask the EU executive “to take into account these questions and outcomes of the discussions to be held with the Member States and European civil society before taking any market authorisation decisions,” according to the note delivered by the 12 countries.
Cell-based meat falls within the scope of the so-called EU novel food framework established for foodstuffs not consumed to a significant degree before 15 May 1998 – when the regulation came into force.
All types of novel foods require an assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the subsequent marketing approval of the European Commission.
Although seemingly open to dialogue, the anti-fake meat coalition took a firm stance against this food technology in its note, stressing that “cell-based products can never be called meat.”
“We thus call on the Commission to ensure that artificially lab-grown products must never be promoted as or confused for authentic foods,” the document continues.
The countries also took aim at ‘greenwashing’ allegations related to lab-grown meat, citing studies that show “a poor climate balance of lab-grown meat” and “a very energy-intensive process”, compared to traditional livestock farming.
“This non-binding statement spreads misinformation about cultivated meat and undermines Europe’s world-leading regulatory system,” said Alex Holst of the Good Food Institute Europe, a non-profit organisation promoting alternative proteins.
According to the NGO, the note references studies that have not been peer-reviewed and that are being used as part of a misinformation campaign based on incorrect assumptions.
“The EU’s Horizon programme and countries like Germany, Spain and the Netherlands have already invested in cultivated meat, recognising its potential to improve food security, reduce emissions, and satisfy a growing demand for meat,” Holst added.
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