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The EU Parliament should decide whether to ban the usage of ‘meatish’ and ‘dairyish’ names for plant-based products. This sounds rather strange since this seems to go against the EU environmental policy which favors emitting less and less CO2 (and generally greenhouse gases).

I am wondering if the vote result is rather symbolic (puts a political pressure on national governments to implement it) or all EU countries will be forced to transpose this into their national laws.

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This is an amendment to an EU regulation. If approved by parliament and agreed by qualified majority vote in council and the commission then it would become "law" and would enter into force across the EU (at a particular time as specified in the regulation).

The EU is not a "Green" organisation, though it and its members are generally more "Green" than the centre of gravity in American politics. There are other big and powerful lobbies in the EU. Farmers are one such lobby. Pastoral farmers are concerned that rising sales of "veggie burgers" will harm their business. They seek to protect words like "burger", "sausage", "steak" and so on, to force producers of "veggie burgers" to use less appetising names: "veggie slab" and so on. This is already in force in France (where the farming lobby is particularly strong).

The claim is that customers are being misled by labeling that claims that something is a "burger". "The content of food should be very clear from its name" says the National Farmers Union. The Vegan society responds that "There is absolutely no evidence that consumers are currently confused by [...] terms like veggie sausage."

These amendments were approved by a committee but now are up for a plenary vote in the Parliament. However, the EU parliament is not a sovereign force and cannot pass regulations without the support of the Council and Commission.

Would this make progress towards carbon neutrality harder? Perhaps but there are other factions in the EU.

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There are two parts of this question:

  1. What has been voted on in the European Parliament and what legal effect does this have?

  2. Is this tied to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions?

The first part is quickly answered:
EU Regulations come into force if they have been agreed upon by Parliament, Council and Commission. The vote above is Parliament asserting its position; usually it will then enter negotiations with Council and Commission until a compromise that all agree to has been reached. This is then again formally voted upon.

As this is a Regulation, it will come into force immediately; the Member States (e.g. national parliaments) have no further opportunity to influence the contents.

Another EU legislative tool exists: the EU Directive. After a Directive has been agreed upon, the Member States are required to transform its contents into national law within a given legal and timeframe. Failure to do so will lead to political consequences within the EU as per treaty clauses. Thus, it is expected that the Directive will ultimately become law across all Member States in some very similar form.


The second part asks whether (or maybe, assumes that?) this goes against the EU’s greenhouse gas reduction target. I am going to answer with a firm no.

This Regulation, if ultimately adopted, will lead to no detectable changes in greenhouse gas emissions at all. The only thing it would do is regulate which names certain products may or may not use. There are already a bunch of similar regulations in force, most of them probably related to Protected Designations of Origin or Protected Geographical Indication – also known as the reason why many feta-like cheeses aren’t called feta in the EU.

The intended objective is to permit consumers to always have a proper understanding of what they are buying. It should be clear that something that is labelled steak actually contains meat or something that is labelled cheese has been made from milk. This allows those who explicitly want an animal steak or milk-based cheese to select these products while on the other hand it also allows those who want to live a vegan life to avoid these products. However, it is my firmly held opinion that this legislation will turn zero meat-eaters into vegetarians or vegans and it will make zero vegans or vegetarians start consuming meat or dairy products – thus, the overall greenhouse gas emissions will not be changed.

While I agree with the general idea of the proposal, it may be exceeding a reasonable target here and there. For example, I wouldn’t agree with outlawing veggie burger which I believe has, by now, become a well-understood name that is unlikely to cause confusion. But again, no matter which name the vendors come up with to replace veggie burger, it will, in my humble opinion, have little to no influence on the actual sales of veggie burgers.

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  • The EU must have a rather low opinion of the intelligence of consumers if it believes that vegan and vegetarian people will be fooled into eating animal products because their oat milk shares the same word, or that unhappy carnivores will think that a clearly labeled "vegetarian sausage" is actually made of meat (not that that would necessarily be a bad thing).
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 7:20
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    This is the sort of issue that has very little backing from the general population. Because, hello? They don't care, because they are not being misled. But it does have lots of adherents among foolish meat and dairy producers who believe they can preserve their profits by the government's mandating various unappetizing sounding labels for their competitors' products. They are threatened by the success of products like "Beyond Burger"—no coincidence that "burger" is one of their primary targets.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 7:24
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    @Obie2.0 While bending or extending the meaning of words is a common method in marketing, soy milk sounds more appetizing than soy-based slurry. When it comes to markets and regulation, there is a clear need for standardization of the meaning of terms. Imagine, if every gas station had their own definition of diesel. You would pretty much end up in a golden-cage scenario, in which car of maker X is compatible only to fuel of brand Y. Clear regulations ensure that you can nearly all over the world fill-up on diesel without damaging your car.
    – Dohn Joe
    Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 11:20
  • Is the term "soy milk" bad? Not in the sense of misleading carnivores to buy a vegan product. Yes, in the sense that this contradicts the common definition of milk, i.e. (roughly) the secrection of mammals used to feed their offspring. As soy is not a mammal, there simply isn't any "soy milk" as there is "cow milk", "goat milk" etc. While, the term 'milk' has been used for emulsions or slurries, i.e. mixtures of liquid and oil/solids, having two definitions of the term 'milk' in the context of food is not really desirable.
    – Dohn Joe
    Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 11:24
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    @Obie2.0: Lactose intolerance is a real and common medical condition which justifies a legal distinction between milk and its plant-based non-lactose alternatives.
    – MSalters
    Commented Oct 20, 2020 at 9:38
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I don't think the two issues you mention are conflicting. The first article in your question is about naming certain food products. From the article:

Amendment 165 would effectively ban widely accepted and commonly used terms, such as ‘veggie burger,’ or ‘plant-based steak’.

Amendment 171 would further restrict the naming of dairy alternatives by prohibiting terms, such as ‘yoghurt-style’, ‘alternative to cheese,’ or ‘butter substitute’ to describe plant-based dairy alternatives.

The second issue is about reducing meat consumption. While meat and dairy substitutes sometimes use names similar to their original counterparts (real meat and dairy), using different names doesn't mean the products themselves may not be sold.

As an example, instead of meatly balls (a name I made up for a meat substitute) which some might think contain meat, could still be sold under a different name, for example veggie balls. While the names may need to be changed under the proposed rules, the products themselves do not.

So yes, the naming of these food products may need to change, but that doesn't mean they cannot be sold.

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  • While the products themselves can be still be sold, forcing the sellers to replace well-known names can act as a deterrent to buying them. I think this is the main concern coming from those opposing this name ban.
    – Alexei
    Commented Oct 18, 2020 at 17:42
  • @Alexei While that's a valid concern, I doubt if it will really have such a big effect. If you want to buy those products, you probably do so for a reason, and that reason probably isn't the name. Those who bought it by mistake thinking it was meat or dairy probably don't make that mistake often, so those aren't a big part of the consumer base. So it seems unlikely to me that much will change other than some bureaucratic reshuffling which is a one-off thing (changing labels, websites, etc.). I don't see how it could impact environmental issues in the long run.
    – JJJ
    Commented Oct 18, 2020 at 17:59
  • "Veggie balls" is fine, but banning "veggie burger" and "veggie sausage" and "butter substitute" is really stupid. Commented Oct 20, 2020 at 10:50

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