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Florida Senate OKs bill that would put lab-grown meat on the chopping block

Jay Collins, R-Tampa,
Bill sponsor Jay Collins, R-Tampa, said research over time might show cultivated meat is viable, but for now the supply should come from cows, pigs and fowl.

The part of the bill that has drawn the most attention is a ban on the sale and manufacture of cultivated meat, with sponsor Sen. Jay Collins noting that for now “there’s no guarantee of safety for the consumer."

The Florida Senate on Thursday approved a wide-ranging bill that would ban the sale of what Gov. Ron DeSantis has described as “fake meat.”

The Republican-controlled Senate voted 26-10 to pass the bill (SB 1084), which would make changes related to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The part of the bill that has drawn the most attention is a proposed ban on the sale and manufacture of cultivated meat, which often is called lab-grown meat. Bill sponsor Jay Collins, R-Tampa, said research over time might show cultivated meat is viable, but right now “there’s no guarantee of safety for the consumer.”

“We believe that our beef grows from a cow on the ground that eats grass, generates beef when we slaughter it. Same thing with pigs, same thing with chickens,” Collins, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said. “This (cultivated meat) is a product grown in the lab.”

But Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Sunny Isles Beach, said federal regulations are in place for cultivated meat and that, while he would not volunteer to eat the meat, “we actually need to feed people, and it's viable.”

Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, said cultivated meat is an “emerging industry” that has drawn interest from Israel and China, and the ban will result in technology companies deciding against locating in Florida.

“The cultivated meat industry is in its infancy, but it's clear that it could become an important part of meeting an increasing demand for protein as a worldwide population grows and certainly it is in this state,” Polsky said. “Studies have shown that cultivated meat has health benefits, reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses, allows precise control over fat content, does not involve the use of growth hormones and also has been shown to have tremendous environmental benefits.”

An earlier version of the bill also would have prohibited research into cultivated meat, which involves a process of taking a small number of cultured cells from animals and growing them in controlled settings to make food.

But concerns were raised that banning research could affect the space industry, which is looking at cultivated meat for long-term space journeys.

The bill, which is backed by state agriculture groups, would make it a second-degree misdemeanor to sell or manufacture lab-grown meat.

A House version of Collins’ bill (HB 1071) has moved through committees and is positioned to go to the full House.

The bill also would prevent local governments from regulating electric vehicle charging stations. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ duties include overseeing pumps at gas stations.

“We’ll have one framework across the entire state,” Collins said. “This will ensure that municipalities don't outright ban EV charging stations. And then, on the other side, you're not forcing people to have 20 (percent), 30 (percent), 40 percent EV charging stations when roughly 2 (percent), maybe 3 percent of the cars on the road right now in the state of Florida are electric vehicles.”

Florida has about 3,230 public charging stations in 44 of the 67 counties, and a staff analysis of the bill said electric vehicles made up nearly 3 percent of cars sold in Florida from July 2020 to July 2021.

The Senate approved an amendment, proposed by Pizzo, that would lead to the department adopting rules to provide requirements for EV charging stations.

Before the amendment was approved, Polsky said having a single agency responsible for the different needs of the state is “clumsy and will cause delays.”

“There's no doubt that people are buying more and more EV cars every day,” Polsky said. “They may not be the majority. But really, it's a growing sector, not a shrinking sector.”

A 2021 law prohibits local governments from mandating such things as EV charging stations on gas retailers. That law came after a move by Petaluma, California, to ban new gas stations with the intention of accelerating the shift to electric vehicles.

Jim Turner - News Service of Florida