States line up for illegal lab-grown meat


Pressure from cattlemen and legislators sympathetic to the broader meat industry has put farmed meat companies in a difficult position. Major meat producers Cargill and Tyson have both invested in farmed meat companies, while Brazil's JBS is working on a farming research site in Brazil. “We see ourselves as an ‘and’ solution, not an ‘or’. We are never thinking of replacing the traditional [meat],'' says Shawn Edgett, chief legal officer of Upside Foods, a cultured meat startup that counts Cargill and Tyson among its investors. “We think there will always be room for it in the market. So when I look at these bills, they look very protectionist.

WildType co-founders Justin Colbeck and Ayre Elfenbein have met with legislators in Arizona, Alabama, and Florida to try to convince them to reject or modify proposed legislation in those states. “The shift we're seeing is toward something that's much more extreme, which is talking about a complete ban,” Elfenbein says. The co-founders are particularly keen on seafood farming, telling lawmakers that the US is a net importer of seafood and that a new source of fish would improve food security within the country.

Also of concern to farmed meat companies are several proposed bills that would impose new labeling restrictions. A proposed bill in Arizona would prevent companies from using meaty words to describe products made from farmed meat, plants or insects. A similar bill passed in March in West Virginia requires any cultured meat product to be labeled as “cell-cultured,” “lab-grown” or a similar term. The fact that lawmakers are proposing legislation that would allow farmed meat to be mixed together with the flesh of insects — a category that many potential consumers find disgusting — is a worrying sign, Almi says.

The political backlash against farmed meat is not surprising, says Sparsh Saha, a lecturer in meat and politics in Harvard's department of government. “I think it was always going to be political fodder, because you have conglomerates, you have a very powerful and increasingly integrated meat and dairy sector,” she says.

In Florida, the debate was particularly extreme. On the House floor, Representative Dean Black referred to cultured meat as “bacterial culture” and “nitrogen-based cellular protein paste.” Representative Daniel Alvarez compared the cells found in cultured meat to cancer.

Elfenbein says such arguments are deeply misinformed. He says, “A lot of the arguments that were made were made under the false pretext of safety.” Compare The Food and Drug Administration concludes that cultured meat from two US companies is safe to eat in order to hide the mandate. “This is inherently a political war,” says Saha.

Behind closed doors, lawmakers speak in a more balanced tone, Edgett says. “Our conversations with all of these lawmakers in their offices are very different than their conversations in the House,” he says. Upside Foods has released a blog post asking potential customers to urge Governor DeSantis to veto the bill. It has been requested to ask for.

In Europe, opposition from parliamentarians to cultured meat is also gaining momentum. In November, the Italian Parliament approved a ban on the food, which is not currently available to customers anywhere in Europe. However, it is unclear whether the Italian law will stand, as it could violate an EU directive designed to prevent regulatory barriers within the bloc. At a meeting of the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 23 January, several delegates called for a “renewed and broader debate in the EU on lab-grown meat”.

Dwayne Holmes, director of Research and Innovation (EU), says, “The kinds of laws that are coming forward in the US and the EU appear to be largely political theatre, but at least they have the potential to have a negative impact on research in those areas.” Have the ability to.” Cultured meat research nonprofit New Harvest. “These laws are also arguably the unintended byproduct of a race-to-market hype cycle designed to generate excitement, which in practice can cut both ways.”

The possibility of more state-level proposed restrictions lurks in the background. A proposed ban in West Virginia was introduced this year but is no longer an active bill. In 2023, Texas legislators brought up a proposed ban that did not make it into law. “I wouldn't be surprised to see that bill come up again,” Elmi says. However, his hope is that if a similar bill comes up, legislators will get enough support from nonprofits like GFI and cultured meat startups. Information will be received that they will not take the same route as Florida. Cultured meat may be approved for sale in the US, but the race to convince legislators to approve it has just begun.