ALT-PROTEIN Some 19 applications are pending, for instance, on cannabidiol (CBD) foods due to a lack of data. “CBD is quite a specific case. We put all of the applications on hold at the same time. Our assessment of available studies showed data gaps regarding the safe use of CBD as food,” said Bray. EFSA scientists say they need more data to determine the effect of CBD on the liver and gastrointestinal tract, for instance. But once EFSA gives a product the green light, the European Commission usually follows through. I see novel foods mainly as an opportunity to get proteins from new sources and strengthen our diversity in food.” Tom Vandenkendelaere Novel food regulation The Brussels-executive says the 2018 novel food regulation means innovative foods can get onto the market quicker. And it defines novel food as food that had not been consumed to a significant degree by humans in the EU before 15 May 1997. Prior to 2018, applicants would first go to a member state for approval and then to EFSA. The new regulation created a centralised authorisation system. “An e-submission system has been developed to facilitate the online submission of novel foods applications,” said a European commission official. Firms can also retain an exclusive right to sell their approved novel food ingredient for up to five years. After that, anyone can market it. It means the process is more simple and efficient, said the official. But not everyone agrees. Among them is Swedish liberal MEP Emma Wiesner. “I’m coming from a traditional farmer’s party, but I’m also an environmentalist,” said the 30-year old, who also holds a masters degree in science and engineering. Wiesner is the European Parliament’s lead MEP on a new European Protein Strategy. “This will not be a strategy about human intake of animal protein. That’s not what it’s about. It’s not a farmer strategy,” she said. Instead, she says the strategy seeks to increase protein crop production in Europe for use in novel technologies and novel foods. This includes plant-based and alternative protein for human consumption, as well as animal feed. Compared to novel food technology in Singapore and Israel, Europe is lagging behind, she said. Wiesner says getting authorisation and permits takes too much time in Europe. “So that can really hamper a lot of cool projects and new technologies,” she said. Belgian MEP Tom Vandenkendelaere, who is working on the European Protein Strategy on behalf of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), drew similar observations. “Providers of novel food continue to face too many administrative barriers to get their products on the market,” he said. For Vandenkendelaere, the 2018 regulation on novel foods already needs an update. Do novel foods pose an existential threat to traditional farming? Not really, says Vandenkendelaere. “I see novel foods mainly as an opportunity to get proteins from new sources and strengthen our diversity in food,” he said. About Nikolaj Nielsen Nikolaj was born in Denmark but spent a better part of his life in Belgium, France and the United States. He joined EUobserver in 2012, where he primarily covers migration, human rights and transparency issues. His reporting for EUobserver has taken him to Algeria, Belarus, Egypt, Lebanon, Moldova, Russia, Transnistria, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine and off the Libyan coast.