Italy has become the first country in the world to ban the production, sale and import of cultivated meat — a term derived from the way it is produced by the cultivation of animal cells rather than through the slaughter of animals.
The ban also extends to the use of words referring to traditional meat products, such as “salami” and “steak,” for marketing plant-based meat substitutes.
The Italian parliament passed the new law after months of debate. Breaking the rules can carry fines of up to 60,000 euros (65,800 U.S. dollars).
Italy’s ban comes as other countries — including Germany and Spain — are investing heavily in research for improving the production process for cultivated meat.
Supporters argue that processing cultivated meat is more sustainable as it has a smaller environmental impact than producing animal-derived meat. It can also be healthier since cultivated meat does not require the use of hormones and antibiotics, and potentially costs less than the meat sourced traditionally.
According to a social media post by Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida, the move aims to protect Italy’s culinary traditions and jobs in the agricultural sector.
“Italy is the first nation in the world to be safe from the social and economic risks of synthetic food,” Lollobrigida wrote.
Earlier this year, Italy took a small step toward allowing the production and sale of food made from insects by establishing guidelines for how such products should be identified in the marketplace. Still, it might take several years until this source of protein becomes widely available in Italy.