Research on cellular “meat” encouraged by the Senate


A worker holds a container with a lab-grown steak, in a lab at Aleph Farms, an Israeli company producing meat from cow cells, in Rehovot, Israel, June 26, 2019.

Food from cell culture is far from having reached the plates of the French, but it is already causing a lot of ink to flow. Still at the research stage in start-up laboratories, these products that reproduce the texture of pieces of meat or fish from stem cells cultured in reactors are presented as an alternative that saves land, water, and less. greenhouse gas emitter than livestock products. But many see it as a technology artificializing food, attacking agriculture and peasant traditions. In a report that should have been examined on Wednesday, March 15, and whose approval was postponed for timing reasons, senators call for “accelerate research to make decisions in full knowledge of the facts and not fall into dependence on large foreign companies”but also call for the evaluation procedures for these products to be strengthened.

While only Singapore has authorized cell culture foods (in a few niche restaurants), and a marketing application is pending in the United States, “We are now at a pivotal moment, with start-ups which will soon – at the end of 2023 or in 2024 – file European marketing authorization files”explains Olivier Rietmann, senator (Les Républicains) of Haute-Saône and co-rapporteur, with Henri Cabanel, elected European Democratic and Social Rally of Hérault, of the information mission on this technology. We must have complete knowledge of the file, pleads Mr. Rietmann. We cannot afford not to anticipate, it will prevent us from making decisions without an impact study. »

Far from giving a blank check to the sector, the senators of the Economic Affairs Committee, who conducted around forty hearings and traveled to the Netherlands, the cradle of this technology for ten years, are asking greater transparency for companies in the sector, which keep some of the manufacturing processes secret. The environmental impact in particular remains difficult to assess, due to a lack of sufficient data. The list of ingredients used in manufacturing must also be public. “One of the sinews of war is the culture medium (in which stem cells are immersed for their reproduction), notes Olivier Rietmann. However, we do not manage to have the real recipe. We also don’t have any real clarity on whether or not to use antibiotics. »

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