The European Commission has falsely claimed that an EU-backed project can create any kind of food "literally from thin air". (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)


Food from thin air? Not even Ursula von der Leyen can do that!

The European Commission has been caught falsely claiming that a EU-backed project can create any kind of food "literally from thin air".


The European Commission has been caught falsely claiming that an EU-backed project can create any kind of food “literally from thin air”.

Eurocrats made the claim in a document listing the executive’s achievements under EC President Ursula von der Leyen, released as part of the build-up to her State of the Union address on September 13.

In the 120-page paper, the EC celebrates the funding of the Solar Foods project, which it says has come up with a way of producing “any food, literally out of thin air”.

“This is not science fiction,” the document insists, adding that Solar Foods had been handed €33.6 million in funding by the bloc.

It appears however that creating any kind of food “literally” out of thin air does remain in the realms of sci-fi for now, with Pasi Vainikka, the CEO of Solar Foods, confirming to Brussels Signal that the EC’s description of the company’s products was not accurate.

“‘Any food’ is of course not true,” he said. “We cannot make apples. Or strawberries. Or leaves of basil, chantarelles …”

Vainikka said the company had figured out how to produce what it calls “Solein”, an “animal-like protein” that could serve as a substitute ingredient in various foodstuffs, such as ice cream, cheese and meat alternatives.

He also added that the protein was nutritious – with the Solar Foods website describing it as containing “all of the nine essential amino acids that are required by the human body” – and that it could largely be produced “out of thin air” once a suitable facility is built.

The end product of such a process, which Vainikka said could be compared to algae or baking yeast, is simply an ingredient, with the process used by Solar Foods unable to create actual food products or even complex “mammalian cells”, such as meat.

The EC’s false claim that it has effectively been funding the creation of a food replicator as imagined in numerous sci-fi stories is ironic considering the bloc’s ongoing war against “disinformation” and fake news.

As part of the EU’s recently enacted Digital Services Act (DSA), so-called “very large online platforms” such as Twitter and TikTok are required to take swift action against misinformation uploaded online, as well as “hate speech”.

A failure to tackle such content opens up the designated social media companies to hefty fines as well as the possibility of being erased from the European internet entirely.

Such heavy-handed censorship rules have drawn the ire of multiple citizens’ rights groups throughout Europe, many of whom have expressed concerns that the DSA could harm free speech.

That suggestion has been rubbished by the EC’s internal market Commissioner Thierry Breton, who has insisted that the EU banning certain types of content it did not like was in no way an affront to freedom of expression.

He went on to emphasise that the EC could single-handedly decide to temporarily remove a social media firm from the European internet if “there is a case (prima facie) to suggest that an infringement of the DSA has taken, or is taking, place”.

An EC spokesman did not reply to a request for comment.