Florida Becomes First State to Ban Lab-Grown Meat

On Wednesday, May 1, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law that bans the manufacture and distribution of lab-grown meat in the state. The ban, which does not include plant-based meat alternatives like Impossible meat, is meant to protect cattle ranchers and the “integrity of American agriculture.” While Florida is the first state to implement such a ban, other states, including Alabama, Arizona, and Tennessee, have recently considered similar measures.

Other States Considering Lab-Grown Meat Bans

The Alabama bill, which originated in the state Senate, has passed the House and is awaiting the governor’s signature. The approved bill removed a research ban that could affect NASA and the space industry, which is looking at cultivated meat for long-term space missions.

In Arizona, two bills related to lab-grown meat passed the House but did not make it out of the Senate. One bill aimed to ban lab-grown meat, while the other focused on tougher meat labeling.

The Tennessee bill, which would have banned the sale of cultured meat and imposed fines of up to $1 million, was not considered by either house before the General Assembly session ended. The bill’s sponsor, state senator Frank Niceley, a farmer, stated that the bill “would be the death knell for (cultured meat).”

Safety and Health Concerns Surrounding Lab-Grown Meat

Lab-grown meat, also known as “cultivated” meat, is grown from animal stem cells. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have approved the safety of lab-grown meat, there are still questions about its health effects.

Several rumors about cultured meat have been debunked, including claims that it is made from human or cancer cells or that it will be sold without proper labeling. The USDA requires the meat alternatives to be labeled “cell-cultivated.”

No animals are slaughtered to make cultured meat, although scientists can take cells from slaughtered livestock to create it. Those with religious or ethical reasons for not eating meat are advised to look into the origin of their lab-grown burger before consuming it.

Criticism and Potential Impact of the Ban

Critics of the ban argue that it is misguided, as the lab-grown meat industry is still in its early stages and has not yet scaled up to produce food for supermarkets. David Kaplan, a biomolecular engineer focusing on cellular agriculture at Tufts University, told Scientific American, “No one in the field has yet scaled up to the levels you need to produce food for supermarkets. There’s not even an industry yet. It’s just fledgling!”

Many meat-alternative companies and supporters view lab-grown meat as a way to address environmental and ethical concerns associated with traditional mass-production of meat. However, a 2021 analysis found that initially, lab-grown meat will cost more than three times as much to produce as natural beef.

The Future of Lab-Grown Meat Amidst Growing Controversy

The Florida ban on lab-grown meat has sparked a debate about the future of the industry and its potential impact on agriculture, the environment, and consumer choice. As other states consider similar measures, it remains to be seen how the regulatory landscape will evolve and whether the cultured meat industry will be able to overcome the challenges it faces in terms of scalability, cost, and public perception.