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  • Writer's picturePhoebe Fraser

Arizona Republicans attempt to ban cell-based meat

House representatives in Arizona, US, have proposed two bills, one banning cell-based meat and the other focusing on labelling, prohibiting the “misbranding” of alt-meats.

If passed, the legislation could see cell-based meat and seafood companies facing fines of up to $100,000.

Arizona House representative Quang Nguyen has drafted HB 2244, a bill that would make it illegal to “intentionally misbrand or misrepresent” an alt-meat product as meat, while fellow Republican David Marshall has introduced HB 2121, a bill that attempts to ban the sale or production of any cell-based meat product.

Nguyen’s HB 2244 aims to make the ‘misrepresentation’ of meat on plant-based and cell-cultured products illegal. It states that foods “not derived from livestock or poultry” cannot be labelled as poultry or meat products. It suggests that this “misbranding” can be done in several ways, including false or misleading labels, using a historically meat-related term, or representing a product as meat if it “is a cell-cultured food product” or “a synthetic product derived from a plant, insect or other source”.

The legislation would allow the health department to take complaints and investigate violations, seek injunctions or other civil reliefs to “restrain and prevent violations”. Each day a breach occurs would be treated as a separate offence, with a maximum penalty of $100,000 per violation.

Nguyen told a local media outlet that the bill is not intended to block companies from offering or consumers from buying these products, but stressed the importance of transparency and disclosure. “The bill doesn’t ban lab meat,” he said, "but if it’s lab meat, it needs to be labelled that. If you don’t want to buy lab meat, then don’t buy it. That’s all.”

However, through bill HB 2121, Marshall does want to prohibit people from buying or selling cell-based meat. In the propsed bill, he moves to ban the sale or production of these foods for both human and animal consumption, calling it “a matter of statewide concern necessary to protect public health”.

There is a focus on the cattle industry, which forms one of Arizona’s five Cs of the economy (cattle, copper, cotton, citrus and climate). “The production and sale of lab-grown, cell-cultured animal products threaten to harm this state’s trust land beneficiaries and the highest and best use of state trust land, which includes the lease of state lands to ranchers for livestock grazing to fund public schools and other public institutions,” reads the bill.

Calling the cattle ranching industry “integral to this state’s history, culture, values and economy”, Marshall says the ban is “necessary to protect this state’s sovereign interests, history, economy and food heritage” – a stance similar to the one adopted by Italy in its ban on cell-based meat last year.

Those found violating the legislation could face a civil penalty of up to $25,000, but anyone whose business is “adversely affected” by the sale of cell-based meat would be permitted to file a suit to stop the act and collect damages of up to $100,000, plus legal fees.

These bills are aimed at protecting America’s livestock industry, which currently receives 800 times more funding than plant-based and cell-based meat companies.

It’s a step against national policy – in June last year, the USDA granted clearance for the production and sale of cell-based chicken to Upside Foods and Eat Just – both companies based in California –, becoming the second country to do so after Singapore.

The US is also home to the largest number of publicly announced cell-based meat companies, representing 60% of global funding in the space.

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