Cultured Meat - Petri Dish - © Newsweek

Fundamental Ignorance: Florida To Ban Lab Grown Meat

Over the past decade, we’ve endured countless controversies over the advent of so-called ‘lab grown’, or ‘cultured’ meats. They’ve been approved by the FDA for sale in the US. But the state of Florida now wants to ban cultured meats…

Lab Grown Clean Meat - © foodnavigator.comLab-grown (cell-cultured) meat…

“Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to keep lab-grown meat out of Florida,” says the opening line of a recent Food & Wine story. Sounds like a pretty contentious issue, framed in such hardline language. But what’s it all about?

‘Protect our meat’

“You need meat. OK. And we’re going to have meat in Florida.” DeSantis told an audience at the South Florida State College Hardee Campus, “We’re not going to have fake meat. Like, that doesn’t work.”

That as a while ago. But now, the Florida state legislature has passed a bill banning cultured meat. And it’s on DeSantis’ desk awaiting signature.

‘Fake’ meat?

Ironically, DeSantis’ characterization of cultured meat as ‘fake’ is totally wrong. It’s real meat, grown from cells harvested humanely from real animals. The result is a copy of the meat from the cell-donor animal. And it’s neither genetically modified nor cloned.

DeSantis and others of his persuasion might properly label plant-based meat substitutes ‘fake meat’. But they are definitely revealing a fundamental – perhaps politically convenient – ignorance of what cultured meat is.

“As of today, the unknowns are so great,” House bill sponsor Danny Alvarez, (R – Hillsborough County), told the House Regulatory Reform & Economic Development Subcommittee. “There are no long-term studies.”

Protect our cattle ranchers?

It turns out that Florida republican politicians are also strongly against cultured meat because it may impact the economy of the state’s cattle producers.

Florida state Rep. Tyler Sirois (R) told Politico that his major motivation is protecting the cattle industry. “Farming and cattle are incredibly important industries to Florida,” Sirois insisted. “So, I think this is a very relevant discussion for our state to have.” He said he considers cultivated meat an ‘affront to nature and creation’.

It’s a ‘southern’ thing

Alabama, Tennessee and Texas are also working on, or have already passed, similar cultured-meat bans. You can be fined up to $1 million in Tennessee just for selling it. In Alabama, you can get up to 10 years in jail. And in Texas, strict labelling and advertising language rules are already in place restricting the conditions under which cultured meat can be sold.

Like many ‘southern’ political moves, it’s seen by outsiders as a sop to the region’s voters. Many of them are highly religious. And they recoil reflexively at any new development that isn’t supported by the word of God. As recorded in the King James version.

My take

It’s too bad Florida, and those other ‘fundamentalist’ states have dismissed cultured meat out-of-hand. Not to mention their adoption of extreme measures against it. Lab-grown proteins may soon be the only resort for meat lovers, as the sustainability crisis deepens. And climate change pushes us all toward plant-based diets.

~ Maggie J.

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