France follows Italy’s lead with proposals to ban cultivated meat

19 Jan 2024

France has become the latest country to consider placing restrictions on cultivated meat after parliamentarians presented a bill in the National Assembly that bans the commercialisation of cell-based meat.

In similar arguments to Italy’s proposed ban, France’s Les Républicains party cited the production and sale of cultivated meat as going against French tradition and damaging livestock farming.

France follows Italy’s lead with proposals to ban cultivated meat
© iStock/JackF

The bill, which was proposed towards the end of last year, was put forward “in the interests of human health, animal health, and the environment”, where replacing “low-quality imported meat” with cultivated meat was “not progress”.

The bill goes on to describe the process of replacing this imported meat produced in inadequate environmental and animal welfare conditions as “replacing junk food with another junk food”.

Senate report urges vigilance to better supervise and master cell-cultivating technology

The party’s stance comes as a report by the French Senate, on behalf of the Economic Affairs Committee on cellular foods, urges vigilance to better supervise and master the technology.

The report goes on to outline a series of recommendations that include affirming in law the principle of prohibiting all marketing, as long as the products are not authorised within the framework of the European novel foods regulation.

Other recommendations discuss the need to establish an automatic information procedure for the committees responsible for food in the European Parliament and in national parliaments for authorisation to place any new food on the market.

The report, which was made available in April 2023, also calls for systematic analysis by the country’s Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) of possible health risks of new foods, in addition to assessment by the European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA).

The ban on cultivated meat looks to be spreading to other countries

The backlash to cultivated meat’s progress appears to be gathering momentum. Along with Italy and France, Croatia is said to be working on a similar proposal, while Austria has shown interest in exploring the idea.

In November 2023, a US Republican representative in Florida submitted a proposal that proposes banning cell-cultured meat in the state.

In addition, the Romanian senate recently voted to ban the commercialisation of these proteins – a move that now requires the approval from the country’s Chamber of Deputies.

"I thank Norbert Totschnig, Austrian minister, for convening a meeting in which he asked me and the French minister Marc Fesneau to share a common document to be presented on synthetic meat,” said Francesco Lollobrigida, Italian minister of agriculture, food sovereignty and forestry, at a meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council (Agrifish) in Brussels.

Industry group questions the argument for cultivated meat

Commenting on France’s plans , the National Bovine Federation (FNB) in a recent Facebook post welcomed the political initiative, asking: “Do we want foods resulting from cell multiplication in industrial incubation reactors, with growth substrates mixing all together substances?”

Credit: © iStock/Consu1961Pictured: The French National Assembly | © iStock/Consu1961

The FNB also raised issues about the meat’s possible effect on health, adding: “Do we really think that this is a perspective to propose for the consumption of our fellow citizens, while questions about human health are being asked, and what remains to be done is to clarify the real environmental impact of these installations?”

France’s consumers eat twice as much meat as the world average

Meanwhile, Italian farming association Coldiretti voiced its support, describing the French parliament’s action as “confirming Italy’s role as a trailblazer” in health safeguarding policies. Its president, Ettore Prandini, also declared: “The battle over synthetic meat is now moving to Europe.”

According to French newspaper Le Monde, France’s consumers eat twice as much meat as the world average, with 84.9 kg consumed per capita in 2022.

The paper places French consumption in line with the European per capita average, with Spain the largest consumer of meat products, followed by Portugal.