What is Synthetic Food?

Il synthetic foodAlso known as artificial foodand sometimes “test-tube food” is a type of food intended for human or animal consumption that is not produced naturally through agriculture o breeding animal, but comes instead artificially created in the laboratory. Instead of growing from the ground, synthetic food uses a growing medium made from chemicals that allow for growth cell multiplication. Among the synthetic foods currently available are synthetic meat, synthetic fish and synthetic milk but others are in development such as for example feed synthetics for animals.

How is synthetic food produced?

Part of the reason synthetic food gets criticized is because of its production method. As mentioned, synthetic food is not produced from traditional agriculture or farming but relies on culture techniques o cell replication that happen in an industrial laboratory. To produce foods such as synthetic meat or fish, muscle tissue cells are taken from the starting animal and multiplied in a substrate (a cocktail of chemicals) suitable for their sustenance. In some cases through the 3D food printing the ingredients are “printed” in a three-dimensional format to form the food. Other products such as milk, cheese and artificial yoghurt start from genetically modified microorganisms capable of producing casein.

Why is artificial food produced? The advantages

The artificial food is designed to specifically satisfy the nutritional needs human. Those who support artificial food are convinced that synthetic food:

  • It can provide a food source that can help solve problems and problems future food challengesespecially those of meat, with a growing world population.
  • would have a limited environmental impact because it would require less water resources and soil consumption to produce the same amount of calories and nutrients than agriculture and livestock
  • They would be food cruelty-free and, in theory, products without the suffering and killing of animals

For these reasons, starting from the first “synthetic steak” in 2013synthetic food has found many supporters starting with celebrities such as Leonardo Dicaprio to many “big” of technology such as Bill Gates. In recent years investments in synthetic food have multiplied by reducing production costs. According to estimates, dal 2030 the consumer price of a kilo of synthetic meat will be equal to that of traditional meat.

Why is synthetic food criticized?

To worry critics of synthetic food would be the lack of information and Scientific studies. Artificial food is the result of a technology relatively new and it is still not clear how it could affect human health. The main criticisms of synthetic food concern:

  • Food safety: It is not yet clear whether artificial food is safe for human consumption long-term. Problems of toxicity or allergies, or other negative effects could arise
  • Environmental sustainability: although artificial food can be produced efficiently by reducing agricultural soil consumption, there are concerns about its environmental sustainability given the use of chemical substances and from need for energy to power production plants.
  • Ethics: the production and consumption of synthetic food has for some also non-negligible ethical issues, due to its artificial origin and to the consequent relationship in general with the human being. For some, artificial food could become an interference with the natural order.
  • Economic impact: also the aversion towards artificial food on the part of traditional producers should not be overlooked. The introduction and spread of synthetic food could have a significant impact on the traditional food industry and the communities that depend on it for livelihoods.

Stop synthetic food in Italy

Dal March 2023 Italy stopped synthetic food. In our country it will be forbidden: “to sell, hold for sale, import, produce for export, administer or distribute for food consumption food or feed consisting of, isolated from or produced from cell cultures or from tissues deriving from vertebrate animals”. Very heavy sanctions for those who contravene the law, with hefty fines from 10,000 to 60,000 euros and even up to 10% of the company’s entire turnover.

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