The Republicans (Les Républicains) party of France has introduced a bill in the National Assembly to prohibit the production and marketing of cultivated meat in the country, reports European Biotechnology.
“In the interests of human health, animal health, and the environment, it is forbidden to produce, process, and market synthetic meat anywhere in France,” reads the proposed law. The bill’s proponents argue that cultivated meat companies promise to replace low-quality imported meat with a highly processed alternative full of “questionable additives” produced in obscured conditions.
“This bill is a needless attack on consumer choice and local startups and would cut France off from investment and job opportunities”
Pauline Grimmer, policy officer at GFI Europe, comments, “This bill is a needless attack on consumer choice and local startups and would cut France off from investment and job opportunities. It would also undermine efforts to tackle climate change just as the UN Environment Programme and countries around the world recognise cultivated meat’s potential.”
A junk food alternative?
At a recent French National Assembly, the signatories of the bill said that cultivated meat was “junk food” and that replacing junk food with other junk food was absurd. Despite these claims, they also denounced that cultivated meat production poses a “real threat to livestock farming,” reports Reussir.
This move mirrors Italy’s latest attacks on biotechnology, which recently banned (without EU review) cultivated meat to preserve the country’s gastronomic heritage. Regarding other meat alternatives, France recently revealed new proposals to prohibit meat-related terms such as “steak” and “ham” in plant-based meat products made and sold in the country.
An underlying motivation
To support their arguments for the prohibition of “anthropogenic” cell-cultivated products, the liberal-conservative parliamentary group used arguments from a 2023 report by the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs highlighting cultural and ethical concerns regarding cell-based foods.
The French Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie has also voiced skepticism about the benefits of cell-based meat, questioning its role in society and dismissing it as a misguided scientific endeavor. However, the underlying motivation for this bill appears to be the protection of traditional meat industries. France holds the title of Europe’s largest beef exporter, and the proposed ban is seen as a way to shield this sector.
The Fédération Nationale Bovine (The National Bovine Federation) welcomed the political initiative, raising concerns about the health and environmental impacts of cultivated meat and its potential adverse effects on the country’s renowned traditional, high-quality gastronomy.
The Confédération Paysanne and Coordination Rurale firmly opposes the production of cell-cultured meat. At the same time, the Fédération nationale des syndicats d’exploitants agricoles, an umbrella organization charged with the national representation of 20,000 local agricultural unions and 22 regional federations, says it does not see any advantages for farmers, clarifying that further evidence of the benefits of cultivated meat is necessary.
Cultivated meat in France
At the National Assembly, in addition to introducing the bill, the parliamentary group denounced the financing of two French biotechs by Bpifrance, saying that the initiative demonstrates the “hesitations” of the current public authorities. The mentioned companies are Vital Meat, developing cultivated chicken at low costs, and Gourmey, which last year secured €48 million to develop cultivated foie gras further.
“Producing cultivated meat uses far less water and energy resources. It also reduces the need for farming land. Cultivated meat will help meet the increasing world demand for animal-derived proteins while decreasing the environmental impact,” states Vital Meat.
“Food is the single strongest lever we can action as individuals to slow down climate change,” shared Gourmey co-founder and CEO Nicolas Morin-Forest in a statement last year.
Grimmer continued, “It’s disappointing to see a group of MPs from the Les Républicains proposing this. If it were to be picked up by the government and eventually become law, this proposal would be highly likely to breach the European single market, as regulatory approval of cultivated meat will be decided through a rigorous process at the EU level.”