Precision fermentation players unite to call for faster EU regulation on animal alternatives
15 Mar 2023 --- As waning food security, climate change and sustainability crises pressure the already stressed F&B industry, many are calling for a more robust food system and an adaptable legislative framework to support it. Key players in the precision fermentation space have formed Food Fermentation Europe (FFE) to answer this demand. This union will champion precision fermentation as the “key to a sustainable food framework.”
The FFE, which consists of Better Dairy, Formo, Imagindairy, Onego Bio and Those Vegan Cowboys, says the time for change is now.
“We are forming now because it’s a critical time in terms of precision fermentation market development and for sustainable agri-food systems,” Christian Poppe, spokesperson for FFE and global public affairs director with Formo, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“Demand for alternatives to animal products is rising rapidly and our solutions like animal-free dairy, cheese and eggs are getting ready to come to market and launching in other parts of the world.”
A central crux of the FFE is to push for change in what it sees as outdated, lethargic legislative processes in the European market.
“We have formed as the current EU regulatory process doesn’t facilitate the efficient roll-out of these products. It’s extremely long and often very unclear,” continues Poppe.
“At the same time, the EU aims to transform agri-food systems and achieve climate neutrality by 2050. This cannot be done unless innovative solutions like ours are given a fair chance at market access.”
The FFE has been formed with three specific objectives.
“Firstly, to raise awareness and build a supportive, forward-looking policy framework for fermentation food and food ingredients in Europe,” says Poppe.
“Secondly, to advocate for a predictable, non-discriminatory and market-based regulatory framework for fermentation food and food ingredients to enable fair competition among market players.”
“Finally, to act as a center of expertise to inform policymakers and stakeholders about the sector's importance and work in partnership with stakeholders to ensure a smooth transition to more sustainable food systems.”
A sustainable framework
Poppe outlines the FFE's vision of a supportive, sustainable framework.
“An ideal framework would have environmental and sustainability goals at its heart, and this is something we do see at EU level, through the EU Green Deal and related policies like the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies.”
“However, what is missing is the push on innovative solutions like ours. We feel that precision fermentation, alongside other solutions, should be promoted through improving the market access processes.”
Speed is the issue. For the FFE, the current legislative process must be faster and more welcoming to innovations.
“Often, for Novel Food applications, the time between the submission of initial applications and the treatment of the application is far too lengthy and it can often be unclear on the cause of delays. This needs to change and more efficient processes are needed so that sustainable solutions can be a key part of achieving sustainability goals.”
An expedient and efficient system will bring many benefits, says Poppe.
“By enabling a transparent and more efficient regulatory process for Novel Foods, the EU can boost the bioeconomy sector, create a resilient food system and position itself as a world leader in food innovation,”
“Moreover, this presents a significant opportunity to simultaneously tackle the environmental, and climate and biodiversity crisis issues we face, facilitating a just agricultural transition.”
The FFE feels that there are several reasons why precision fermentation is poised to become a key solution to these crises.
“Precision fermentation can be a key part of a sustainable food framework because it can be a source of nutritious food and protein while also having very tangible environmental benefits and economic growth potential,” explains Poppe.
“It has high nutritional value – precision fermentation delivers animal-free, tasty, and nutritious products like cheese, eggs and milk which can be indistinguishable from animal-made counterparts in taste and nutritional content.”
“Similarly, it has high sustainability potential,” he continues. “Precision fermentation and other fermentation-based technologies hold great potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use and no animal farming-related public health risks on a massive scale.”
“It also has huge growth potential. As a rapidly emerging sector, it offers the EU the opportunity to achieve economic growth and attract investment, which can benefit the food sector economically.”
The FFE ultimately hopes to expand and collaborate with other sustainably-oriented producers who may share the FFE’s goals.
“Our message to other producers is that as a new alliance, we are open and eager to talk about the best ways to achieve the change needed,” says Poppe.
“We want to work together and believe that precision fermentation and neighboring fermentation-enabled technologies can offer opportunities to bring traditional processes and innovation together to achieve sustainable agri-food systems.”
The FFE will hold its official launch event this summer in Brussels.
An expanding space
The FFE formation comes only a short time after the launch earlier this year of the Precision Fermentation Alliance (PFA), which shares many of the goals, and two members, of the FFE.
The PFA comprises Perfect Day, Remilk, Change Foods, The EVERY Co, Helania,, Motif Foodworks, New Culture, and FFE members Onego Bio and Imagindairy.
Producers and consumers are noticing the potential of precision fermentation. A recent study commissioned by Perfect Day and Cargill found that consumer perceptions toward new food technology innovations are shifting, revealing that over three-quarters (77%) are likely to purchase products made with ingredients produced via precision fermentation.
By James Davies
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