Italy Agriculture Minister Condemns Lab-Grown Meat

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News in brief: Italy Minister of Agriculture condemns lab-grown meat as unhealthy and not the real thing. Not everyone in the country agrees as a bill to ban these kinds of products reach parliament before they even make an entrance in Europe.

Italy Agriculture Minister, Francesco Lollobrigida, has condemned lab-grown meat, claiming that they are potentially dangerous to the health. He called them ‘slush’, which is typically used to refer to things that make squelching sound.

Although the process of creating food in the lab is relatively new, some countries have made major advancements in this field. For example, Singapore approved lab-grown meat for retail sale back in 2020. Many online sources mention Israeli-based SuperMeat as leaders in the industry.

Rejecting them, Lollobrigida argued that they can never taste like natural meat or fish. “We reject the idea of standardising products … making them all the same in laboratories, erasing our culture tied to the land,” the minister told Reuters reporters in Rome.

As the report points out, the country’s government already proposed a bill to ban the production and import of lab-grown food and feed. Although, they are not yet available in Europe, at least not in registered capacities.

The idea behind growing meat, fish or food in the lab is multifaceted. On one hand, there are vegetarians who may still want to enjoy the feel of eating certain foods without animals dying or being bred to make it happen. There is also the argument that it could solve environmental issues like greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation.

Francesco Lollobrigida, Italy Agriculture Minister. Image Source: Reuters.
Francesco Lollobrigida, Italy Agriculture Minister. Image Source: Reuters.

However, Lollobrigida is not considering customer options. He argued that animal breeding is sustainable and agricultural pollution is different from industrial pollution. In addition, he said that growing food in the lab required large amounts of energy. Although, it will definitely be easier to run a clean energy lab than a clean energy food processing factory.

Do lab-grown meat taste the same as natural meat?

To grow meat in a lab, the basic principle is extracting a small sample of the animal’s cells, like muscle cells, and growing them in a lab culture to create additional muscle tissue. According to this Time article, even experts find it difficult to tell which meat is lab-grown and which is natural.

For Francesco Lollobrigida, it is also about his cultural heritage. Something he feels that lab-grown food would erode if not checked.

Lab-grown meat can have more benefits than the ethical and environmental ones already named. It could play a key part in food security for the future if the process is perfected quickly. Also, scientists can target the meat with certain nutritional inputs to make them even healthier than natural meat.

While Italians wait for parliament to act on the bill, certain organisations have kicked against it and the minister’s views. Meanwhile, on the other side of the divide are agro giants who want the government to protect their products against potential competitors from labs.

Obinna Onwuasoanya
Obinna Onwuasoanya
Obinna Onwuasoanya is a tech reporter of over five years, fiction writer, SEO expert and an editor. He is based in Lagos, Nigeria, and was previously shortlisted for the Writivism Short Story Prize 2018.

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