- China Cellular Agriculture Forum
The first China Cellular Agriculture Forum discussion panel was held on April 19, Beijing time. The panel was a collaborative success, with attendees from around 30 organizations*, representing leading cultivated meat companies, ecosystem builders, research institutions, and upstream and downstream partners from both within and outside of China.
This Forum was organized with the vision of advocating science-based regulatory policies, facilitating public acceptance of technologies and products related to cellular agriculture, and reaching a consensus on industry-best-practice specifically in the China space. The Forum hopes to unite stakeholders (academia, regulatory authorities, industry groups, etc.) across the field of cellular agriculture to establish a China-focused industry platform, laying the groundwork for future joint efforts in promoting public acceptance in the Chinese market space.
International Food Law expert, Mr. Wilfred Feng, presented a top-level overview of the current regulatory framework in China, stating that "there are four key regulatory issues to work on, including nomenclature and categorization of products, the data requirement and protocols for pre-market clearance, the consensus of industry-best-practice, and the licensing of food production in China". Mr. Feng also shared that with cultivated meat being listed in the 14th Five-Year Plan of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, “the Chinese government has already posted a positive attitude towards this new technology, and now is the right time to start communicating with the Chinese government for further development", says Mr. Feng.
Representatives from China Meat Research Center (CMRC) and China Meat Association (CMA) also participated in the panel to share their views on cultivated meat and its technological development. CMRC commented that cultivated meat production is a revolutionary technology that combines innovative techniques from different fields, but they also noted that there is a lot of work to be done to build up a respective framework; CMA expressed its support for building an industry platform, saying that a focused channel might be helpful in starting a conversation with the officials.
Notably, China-based cultivated meat startups recognized the urgent need for the industry to come together and work as a group to promote and grow. They reached a consensus that a cohesive platform is critical to coordinate efforts and to create synergies that benefit all. "I believe the forum today is a great starting point for more collaborations between companies within China and with international players interested in entering China”, says Mr. Ziliang Yang, the CEO and co-founder of CellX, a cellular agriculture startup based in Shanghai. Meanwhile, Dr. Shijie Ding, the CEO of a Nanjing-based cultivated meat company, Joes Future Food, discussed about the local challenges that companies are facing in China, such as those in stem cell research and bioreactor equipment designs. Dr. Ding emphasized with a positive note that "the Chinese government has shown great support to green technologies, especially in cultivated meat”. From the cultivated seafood sector, Avant Meats remarked on the uniqueness of each regulatory system, suggesting that “startups can contribute data to Chinese regulators to formulate a framework for food safety assessments to help speed up the legislation process”, says Carrie Chan, CEO and co-founder of Avant Meats.
Aside from local organizations and companies, overseas parties such as Aleph Farms, APAC Society for Cellular Agriculture, BlueNalu, Merck KGaA, and Japan Association for Cellular Agriculture, also participated in the discussion of advancing regulations and contributed to future project ideations. Under collective efforts, the Forum is orienting itself to help push the regulatory status forward in China and around the world. In the future, cellular agriculture will become one of the deciding means to greatly reduce the use of energy, freshwater, and arable land for food production. With such a large consumer base and an ever-rising protein demand, cellular agriculture has a strong stance in China, and the China market is certainly attractive to a lot of players outside of the region.
*China-based organizations are represented by research institutions such as East China University of Science and Technology, Jiangnan University, and Zhejiang University; local cultivated meat companies such as Avant Meats, CellX and Joes Future Food; industry partners such as AgFood Future, APAC Society for Cellular Agriculture, Japan Association for Cellular Agriculture, the China Meat Research Center, China Meat Association, GFIC, Lever VC, etc. Industry leaders from across the globe with interests in the China market also attended the Forum panel, which included upstream manufacturers such as Merck KGaA, Esco Lifescience Group, downstream companies such as Aleph Farms, BlueNalu, IntegriCulture Inc., Mission Barns, Mosa Meat, Shiok Meats, SuperMeat, TurtleTree Labs, UPSIDE Foods, etc., and research institutions such as Tufts University/National Institute for Cellular Agriculture, etc.