Israel Can Lead Global Innovation in Food Field if We Remove Regulation
Ma’ariv, Israel, October 17
The world’s population is growing rapidly. But today’s food system simply won’t be able to sustain this growth. Despite the fact that livestock occupies a large part of our ecosystem, animal-based protein won’t suffice in feeding us all. Indeed, if we took all the cattle in the world and grouped it into a “country,” that country would rank third in the world in greenhouse gas emissions, following only the United States and China. The environmental impact of sheep and cattle farming on the climate is clear, but it doesn’t end there: Growing one kilogram of edible cattle requires over 15,000 liters of water, and cattle crops occupy about a third of the earth’s living space, leading to large-scale deforestation in various countries for raising cattle and for raising food for cattle. Because the land we live on and the water we drink are becoming increasingly scarce, we must find alternative protein sources that could feed the world. Cultured meat has become a promising solution. In Israel, there is enormous innovation in the field of food tech, which includes startups, development incubators, investors and academic research. All of these entities are receiving extensive support from the government’s Innovation Authority. Cultured meat aims to transform the market in the coming years but it’s still an expensive solution. So, the best minds are working on improving the efficiency of its production. Sadly, Israeli food regulation is extremely difficult to navigate, making it difficult for those who seek to turn us into a food tech powerhouse. Food manufacturers are required to comply with a series of laws and regulations for the purpose of licensing a business and establishing a factory, importing raw materials, marking and pricing their products. Moreover, the developers are required to comply with another regulation: a committee approving new foods. The Health Ministry doesn’t test new products itself and relies on regulatory approvals from other countries before approving them for marketing in Israel. This is a significant barrier that means companies in the alternative protein development industry prefer to go abroad and give up on Israel as their site for the development of pilots and products. Israel can be a perfect home for rapid development in the field of alternative protein; it has one of the largest vegan populations in the world and customers who are willing to try new things. In order to realize the potential, we need regulatory innovation: solutions that will make it possible to develop cultured meat in a safe and efficient manner. As the FDA has approved coronavirus vaccines in a quick and temporary route, which does not come at the expense of full regulatory approval later on, the Health Ministry can open a green and fast route to innovative food solutions, followed by a full approval procedure. This way we can promote innovation, without compromising consumer safety and without losing our lead as a technological powerhouse. – Shira Lev Ami (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)
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