A ban on cultivated meat advanced in the Senate despite concerns from investors in the emerging technology.
Sen. Jay Collins, a Tampa Republican, said Florida does not need to wait for federal guidance to impose a complete ban on the sale or manufacture of meat in laboratory settings. If officials feel more confident in the product in the future, he said lawmakers can revisit the matter then.
“We want to ban it and you can scale back from there,” he said. “Let’s go to the most invasive. We can come back as the science shows that this is safe.”
The cultivated meat ban advanced as part of a larger legislative package (SB 1084) covering priorities for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The Senate Agriculture, Environment, and General Government Appropriations Committee moved the bill forward on a 6-3 party-line vote.
Should the bill become law, Florida would be the first nation in the country to completely ban cultivated meat.
But Sen. Tina Polsky, a Boca Raton Democrat, said DeSantis and others have mischaracterized cellular agriculture as a threat to traditional agriculture.
“I feel like this is a political boogeyman,” Polsky said. “The Governor said out on the campaign trail, ‘We’re not going to ban meat in our state.’ I don’t see any of these people making cultivated meat banning meat. It could be called wild meat. It could be exotic. There is never going to be a shortage of people who want poultry and cattle and fish.”
The ban has been championed by the Florida Cattlemen’s Association and traditional livestock companies.
But the business interests speaking at the Senate hearing all represented the burgeoning field of lab-grown meat. They noted the Food and Drug Administration already has approved the technology in the U.S. — two restaurants already operate in Washington and San Francisco respectively serving cultivated meat — and that manufacturers are working closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on the quality of products.
Marc Shelley, chief legal officer for Believer Meats, said his company has worked closely with scientists in Israel, suggesting the growth industry would boost relations with that allied nation. He also said other states like North Carolina have incentivized meat cultivation there.
“We will be regulated by the USDA. They will regulate us because they view our product as real chicken. We will be held to the same standards as conventional chicken.”
Regardless, Collins’ bill would treat any research, creation or sale of such products as a misdemeanor. Collins defended that step as important to hold companies accountable. Florida, he said, should not allow the product until there’s far greater confidence it is safe to consume.
“Until we have those studies, and there’s proof positive that this process is going to work, we want to ban that here in the state of Florida because it’s just not there quite yet,” he said.