Italy’s Five Star Movement leader urges split from UKIP in European Parliament

The head of Italy's populist Five Star movement (M5S) said on Sunday he wants to abandon a eurosceptic alliance in the European Parliament with Britain's UKIP party, which will leave the legislature after Brexit.

Italy's Five Star Movement leader urges split from UKIP in European Parliament

Beppe Grillo proposed, in a blog posting, that his anti-euro party instead align itself with a pro-EU group, drawing shock from supporters who have until Monday to vote on the question.

“The recent European developments, like Brexit, have led us to rethink the nature of the EFDD (Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy) group,” Grillo wrote, referring to its parliamentary grouping led by ex-UKIP head Nigel Farage.

“To remain a member of the EFDD is to face the next two-and-a-half years without a common political objective,” Grillo added.

UKIP is the single largest source of the grouping's members, raising the possibility it could fall apart once British MEPs leave the legislature at the end of their terms in 2019.

There can be no British members of the European parliament once Britain completes its planned exit from the bloc.

The political groupings are important because not only do they provide more political visibility and the possibility of chairing various committees, but also up to 30 million euros ($32 million) in funding during the parliament's five-year term.

Grillo has raised the idea of joining up with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), which supports the common currency and European integration.

If M5S sign up with the ALDE grouping, it would become the third largest political force in the European Parliament, behind the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) and the Socialists & Democrats (S&D), Grillo wrote.

Many Five Star supporters reacted with outrage to the proposal, with one writing on Grillo's blog, “ALDE? Are we ultra-liberals or pro-Made in Italy?”

“If the base chooses to join ALDE there will be an endless haemorrhage of votes,” wrote another backer, Alessandro Gasparri.

Matteo Salvini, who leads Italy's anti-immigrant, anti-EU Northern League party, called the proposal an “incredible Europeanist about face by Grillo!”

For a little more power in parliament “the five stars are abandoning a eurosceptic group to join ALDE, the group most in favour of a Europe belonging to the euro, banks, lobbies and immigration,” he added.

M5S members can cast online ballots on Grillo's proposal until midday (1100 GMT) on Monday.

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Italy to ban lab-grown foods in bid to protect tradition

Italy's government on Tuesday approved a bill banning the use of synthetic foods, including artificial meat, which it says threatens the country's agri-food heritage.

Italy to ban lab-grown foods in bid to protect tradition

“Laboratory products in our opinion do not guarantee quality, well-being and the protection of our culture, our tradition,” said Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida, from Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy party, at a press conference on Tuesday.

READ ALSO: Four myths about ‘traditional’ Italian food you can stop believing

Meloni’s nationalist administration has pledged to protect Italy’s food businesses from technological innovations seen as harmful, and renamed the agriculture ministry the “ministry for agriculture and food sovereignty”.

Health Minister Orazio Schillac admitted there was “no scientific evidence of possible harmful effects linked to the consumption of synthetic foods” but said the move to ban them was “based on the precautionary principle”.

Meat substitutes have long been produced, with varying degrees of success, from vegetable sources like soya, peas or beans.

The new legislation specifically targets synthetic products being developed in laboratories from animal cells, which aim to ‘grow’ meat without killing the donor animal.

Italy’s goverment says synthetic meat products theaten its national food traditions. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)
A 3D-printer at a food expo in Barcelona, Spain, creates plant-based proteins which mimic the texture of beef. Italy has moved to ban the production of such foods. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)

If the proposal is passed by parliament, penalties for violations would include fines of up to 60,000 euros ($64,000).

Agriculture lobby Coldiretti praised the move, saying a ban was needed to safeguard domestic production “from the attacks of multinational companies”.

“Italy, which is a European leader in food quality and safety, has a duty to be at the forefront of food policies to defend citizens and businesses,” Coldiretti president Ettore Prandini said in a statement.

READ ALSO: Why claims Italian cuisine is a ‘modern invention’ have angered Italy

But critics said the move was part of the government’s focus on identity politics and would leave Italian businesses trailing behind rivals in other European countries.

“A new day, a new enemy, a new crime,” said Giordano Masini of the left-wing More Europe party.

“Instead of welcoming a potential new development opportunity, which could bring new businesses and more jobs, the government rushes to ban it, imagining health risks that no one has ever shown.”

“In the end, foods obtained via cell culture will arrive anyway, as it is the EFSA that evaluates the health risks of food products [in Europe] not the Italian government, and the European Union will allow them onto the single market. 

“So producers in other countries who, in the meantime, can do research and development will be the ones to benefit.”

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The ban was also crtiticised by organisations supporting the development of cell-based food products across Europe, as well as animal rights groups.

“The passing of such a law would shut down the economic potential of this nascent field in Italy, holding back scientific progress and climate mitigation efforts,” Alice Ravenscroft, head of policy at the Good Food Institute Europe, told Reuters.

In order to come into force, the bill will have to be adopted within two months by parliament, which may amend it during debates.

Currently no marketing applications for such foods have been made in the EU, and it is likely to be at least 2025 before such foods appear on shelves in Europe.

The ban on lab-grown meat was not the only rule proposed by Meloni’s administration aimed at preventing unconventional foods from being served on Italian tables.

The government was also reportedly preparing decrees to introduce information labels on products containing or derived from insects amid concerns about the use of cricket flour.

Italy’s government also said last week it planned to launch a bid to have “Italian cuisine” included on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage, though it was not immediately clear which dishes it would include.