Politics & Law

EU Ministers Against Cultivated Meat Debate at EU Council Using Misinformation Says GFI

Yesterday, at an EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting, ministers gathered to discuss cultivated meat and its potential to benefit or threaten people and the environment.

A coalition of 13 agricultural ministers, rather than 12 as initially reported by Euronews, led by Austria, France, and Italy, had sent a note to the EU council urging a revision of the regulatory approval framework for cultivated meat. 

Supported by Czech, Cypriot, Greek, Hungarian, Luxembourg, Lithuanian, Maltese, Romanian, Slovak, and Spanish delegations, they raised concerns about the potential threat of cultivated meat to the economy, public health, and farmers while questioning its “naturalness” (fake meat) and sustainability.

Austria’s Ministry of Health, which bears responsibility for food safety, has clarified that the note does not represent the stance of the Austrian government.

Cultivated bacon on top of a burger
Image courtesy of Uncommon

A controversial note

The note submitted by the coalition cites a non-peer-reviewed study by UC Davis from last year, which claimed that cultivated meat would not be better for the environment than beef. 

According to the Good Food Institute Europe, UC David’s paper is based on “incorrect assumptions” on the production of cultivated meat, the findings of which significantly differ from the existing scientific literature.

Moreover, the UC Davis report argues that the cultivated meat industry relies on fetal bovine serum (FBS) and cannot guarantee the animal welfare standards it promises. However, according to the think tank, these assumptions on animal welfare are outdated because “FBS cannot be used for producing cultivated meat at scale as it is too expensive, batches are inconsistent, and global supplies are limited.”

In addition, the GFI Europe says the bloc supports its arguments using a 2019 University of Oxford paper that researched the environmental impact of cultivated meat when the technology was less developed and was relying on mixed energies for its production, including fossil fuels. “Nevertheless, this paper actually found that cultivated meat is much better for our climate than the “best” conventional meat production systems for at least the next 100 years,” shared the GFI Europe in a statement.

Spreading misinformation

Alex Holst, senior policy manager at the Good Food Institute (GFI) Europe, also commented: “This non-binding statement spreads misinformation about cultivated meat and undermines Europe’s world-leading regulatory system.

 “Overhauling the gold standard Novel Foods regulatory process now is completely unnecessary, and risks preventing the EU from taking a leading role in this sector – just as the United States and China invest in cultivated meat to boost their economies and create future-proof jobs.”

Cellular Agriculture Europe‘s president, Robert E. Jones, also expressed his views on the debate: “Europe invented cultivated meat, some of the best companies in the world are here and the EU is well positioned to be a global leader in cultivated foods; which makes today’s misinformed discussion all the more disappointing. 

“Companies wanting to bring cultivated meat or seafood to market will undergo a multi-year rigorous safety review by EFSA and then each Member State will have a vote on the Commission’s draft authorisation text,” Jones adds.

Two hands holding a planet shaped into a heart
© Aleph Farms

Disagreements on cultivated meat

During the debate, many countries supported the coalition’s arguments. However, some countries voice their disagreement.

For example, the Netherlands representative emphasized the importance of supporting innovations in animal protein production methods to ensure global food security given the growing world population and the increasing demand for animal proteins. 

The Dutch representative said: “So, more research is needed to ensure the safety and the lower energy use, and therefore in the Netherlands we invest in this research, and so I would plea to let’s also look at the opportunities of this development and not only see the threats.”

Meanwhile, the Danish representative said that the Danish government supports new biotechnological solutions for sustainable proteins, adding that EU regulations already provide a clear legal framework based on scientific evidence. 

The representative added: “Denmark sees no reason for hindering the development and marketing of cell-based products, as long as such products are safe and fulfill the legal requirements and as long as they are labelled in a way which is not misleading to consumers. If these requirements are met it must then be up to consumers if they want to buy these products.” 

As reported by the Good Food Institute Europe nonprofit, Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, pointed out that the EU’s novel foods regulation guarantees the safeguarding of human health and consumer interests within its internal market.

The EU’s debate against authorizing cultivated meat has grabbed attention in the news and social media. The food lawyer Francesco Montanari, Director Lisbon Office Arcadia International & Researcher at CEDIS, made a simulation of the voting results (according to EU council rules) to share each country’s stance on this novel food with his followers:

A chart listing all the state member of the EU
© Francesco Montanari

The promise of cultivated meat

According to peer-reviewed research, the production of cultivated meat using renewable energy sources can result in emissions that are 92% lower than those from conventional beef. Additionally, the study indicates that it has the potential to decrease air pollution by up to 94% and require 90% less land. 

The findings also suggest that cultivated meat could meet the meat demand while enabling farmers to transition to more sustainable and organic practices as mandated by the EU. FAO anticipates that by 2050, meat consumption will rise by approximately 50%. However, the current production methods are insufficient to cater to this increased demand without exceeding the ecological limitations of the planet.

“Not only is cellular agriculture not a threat to European farmers, it can complement our existing protein production and create new revenue opportunities for farmers to raise the crops needed to feed our cells,” added Robert Jones.

>> Click here to go to Cultivated X where you will see a familiar layout and a focus solely on content regarding cellular agriculture, including fermentation-enabled products, and with more granular categories.

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