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France demands 'clear' EU-wide definition of cultivated meat to appease protesting farmers

February 1, 2024

France is urging the European Union to establish a definitive definition for cell-cultivated meat, according to Prime Minister Gabriel Attal. This move comes in response to concerns raised by protesting farmers. Attal emphasized that cultured meat does not align with the traditional French diet, prompting the call for "clear legislation at the European level" to precisely define cultivated meat.

In the preceding month, agriculture ministers from France, Austria, and Italy initiated a "culinary alliance" to initiate a public debate on lab-grown meat. Currently, synthetic meat remains unauthorized for sale in the EU as it lacks approval from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Austria and Italy proposed a two-step process involving a public consultation and impact study before potential approval for human consumption. If approved, clear labeling requirements would be imposed. The cautious approach to lab-grown meat contributes to the rising tensions within Europe's farming sector, exacerbated by concerns over increased production costs and environmental regulations.

The EU is undergoing a transformative shift toward a carbon-neutral future, impacting various sectors, including food production. Environmentalists view lab-grown meat as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with traditional livestock farming, while animal rights groups see it as a way to address ethical concerns related to animal farming.

Austrian Agriculture Minister Norbert Totschnig emphasized the need for a comprehensive discussion and impact assessment, citing differences between synthetic and naturally grown meat. Italy has already imposed a ban on synthetic meat production and sale, emphasizing the potential risks from health, environmental, and ethical perspectives.

The plea for a clear EU-wide definition reflects the broader challenges and debates surrounding novel foods, with the European Food Safety Authority having previously approved the consumption of products derived from various insects, each subject to specific labeling requirements since 2021.

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