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Italy moves to ban lab-grown food to protect culinary traditions

Breach of rules could lead to €60,000 fine.

The Italian government has approved a draft bill banning the production and sale of cultivated food as part of a drive to protect the nation's culinary heritage.

The bill, unveiled by agriculture minister Francesco Lollobrigida and health minister Orazio Schillaci on Tuesday evening, must first be passed by parliament before becoming law.

Under the ban proposed by the right-wing administration of premier Giorgia Meloni, those who produce cell-based food and animal feed in Italy would face fines of up to €60,000 and risk the closure of their manufacturing plant for up to three years.

The bill seeks to "protect our culture and our tradition, including food and wine", Lollobrigida told reporters, adding: "Laboratory products in our opinion do not guarantee quality, well-being and the protection of our culture, our tradition."

Schillaci said the bill was based on "precautionary principles" and cited a lack of scientific studies on the effects of "synthetic foods".

"We reaffirm the highest level of protection of citizens' health and the safeguarding of our nation's heritage and our agri-food culture which is based on the Mediterranean diet," Schillaci stated.

The proposed ban received a backlash from supporters of cell-based agricultural products in Europe, as well as from animal rights groups.

"The government is inventing another new crime today" - said Riccardo Magi of the left-wing +Europa party - "This time they take it out on synthetic food and prefer to continue with their reckless prohibition, instead of doing research and developing a technology that could allow us to pollute and kill less."

The news was welcomed however by Italy's agricultural organisation Coldiretti which had lobbied for such a ban to safeguard home production from "the attacks of multinational companies", as well as gathering half a million signatures in a petition against synthetic food.

Addressing the Coldiretti rally outside Palazzo Chigi following the approval of the draft bill on Tuesday, prime minister Meloni said: "We could not but celebrate with our farmers a measure that places Italy at the forefront, not only on the issue of defending excellence - a matter that is particularly important to us - but also on the issue of consumer protection."

The announcement of the proposed ban comes days after Italy launched a bid to have Italian cuisine inserted on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage.


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