Florida lawmakers back a bill banning sales of lab-grown meats
Federal agencies have deemed lab-grown, or cultivated, meat safe to eat. But the legislation, supported by the state’s agriculture industry, “pumps the brakes” on the food to ensure it is safe.
The Florida House on Monday continued moving forward with a wide-ranging bill that includes banning sales of lab-grown meat in the state.
The Republican-controlled House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee voted 9-3 to approve the bill (HB 1071), which deals with Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services regulatory issues.
Federal agencies have deemed lab-grown, or cultivated, meat safe to eat. But bill sponsor Danny Alvarez, R-Hillsborough County, said the legislation, supported by the state’s agriculture industry, “pumps the brakes” on the food to ensure it is safe.
“Right now, we don't have the information for a consumer to make an educated, informed consensual decision,” Alvarez said.
“Until we have long-term studies that tell me what lab-grown immortalized cells do to your body, I challenge you to put it in your child,” Alvarez added.
Cultivated meat involves a process of taking a small number of cultured cells from animals and growing them in controlled settings to make food.
Supporters of cultivated meat called the legislation “anti-free market” and argued it will benefit China, which is researching the products.
Rep. Lindsay Cross, D-St. Petersburg, said cultivated meat won’t replace traditional agriculture in the Florida but is needed as the industry faces further pressure from the state’s growing population.
“As we run out of ag lands, we will have to look at alternative food systems,” Cross said. ““I would rather have that come from Florida than China.”
The bill would make it a second-degree misdemeanor to sell manufactured meat in Florida.
The bill was revised Monday to remove a proposed ban on manufacturing the product in Florida. Such a ban on manufacturing could have affected research and potentially the space industry.
"One of the things we were concerned about is that cultivated meat may be one of the ways that we're able to feed astronauts," subcommittee Chair Rep. Thad Altman, R-Indialantic, said. "You aren't going to have cattle grazing on Mars anytime soon or on a space station at a distant location."
Several backers of cultivated meat said the revision was a good step but that it wouldn’t go far enough to ease venture capitalists' concerns about investing in biotechnologies in Florida.
“A ban like this threatens a free market and sets a dangerous precedent for government interference,” said Emily Bogan, of New Jersey-based Fork & Good Inc. “We want to ensure that affordable meat is available for generations to come.”
Justin Kolbeck, co-founder of San Francisco-based seafood company Wildtype, said the revised measure will still likely announce Florida as “closed.”
“Far from protecting American jobs, banning cultivated seafood in the United States will deepen our country's dependence on imports from countries like China,” Kolbeck said. “This ban will create Chinese jobs at the expense of small businesses like mine. And this ban will also stifle innovation in Florida as investment dollars are redirected towards more business-friendly states.”
The bill needs approval from the House Infrastructure Strategies Committee before it can go to the full House. A Senate version (SB 1084) needs to clear the Fiscal Policy Committee before it can go to the full Senate.