Italy Bans The Sale Of Cultivated Meat

The Italian government has just done something many American farmers and ranchers probably wish their government would do.

Italy banned cultivated meat, the kind grown in laboratory bioreactors from stem cells. Under a law enacted last month, cultivated meat cannot be produced or marketed in Italy.

Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida said Italy was proud to be the first country to impose such a ban. Which, if any, will be the second is unclear.

Many other countries are allowing, even encouraging, the technology to be developed. Singapore is the only country where people are currently eating cell-based meat, but the USDA and FDA have approved two kinds of cell-based chicken.

For regulators in most countries, including the U.S., the paramount issue is food safety. Were they to nix a proposed cultivated-meat product, it would be because they found it less safe than meat raised the old-fashioned way.

Italy’s ban grows out of somewhat different concerns, concerns that may be of more interest to American farmers and ranchers. Italy is unashamedly trying to protect its food traditions — and its farmers.

“We protect our food, our food system, to maintain the relationship between food, land and human work that has accompanied us for millennia,” Food quoted Lollobrigida as saying. “We must protect our workers, our agricultural entrepreneurs and our citizens who have the right to eat well.”

What Italy isn’t protecting is its infant cultivated-meat industry. Instead, it’s putting it out of business. Italian farmers lobbied hard for the measure. They are eager to see their high-tech competitors squelched.