Florida Republican proposes bill to ban sale and distribution of cell-based meat
Florida House Republican Tyler Sirois introduced a new bill on Monday, aiming to make it illegal to manufacture, sell, hold or distribute cell-based meat within Florida state.
The proposed legislation – HB 435 – defines cell-based meat as “any meat or food product produced from cultured animal cells”.
The bill states that it would become “unlawful for any person to manufacture, sell, hold, or offer for sale or distribute cultivated meat in this state”. It would come into effect in July 2024 if signed into law.
Individuals found violating the proposed law would reportedly face a misdemeanour of the second degree, accompanied by a fine ranging from $500 to $1,000 under section 775.082 or section 775.083. Additionally, the license of any restaurant, store or business found in violation could be immediately suspended or issued an immediate stop-sale order.
This move follows the recent approval by federal regulators of cell-based chicken sales in the US, a breakthrough that marked the nation’s first approved cultivated meat. Two restaurants – China Chilcano serving Good Meat in Washington and Bar Crenn serving Upside Foods in California – are licensed to sell cell-based chicken to consumers.
Florida’s bill threatens to halt these advancements in the US, which has the highest number of publicly announced companies working in this space (43) and commands 60% of global cell-based meat investments.
"This proposed bill by a Florida Republican is short-sighted," Julia Martin, cellular agriculture lead at ProVeg International told The Cell Base. "Cultivated meat, once scaled up, has the potential to provide Americans with meat that produces far less emissions than conventional meat, that requires less land and water use, and that will allow our food system to transition into being cruelty-free. The sustainability and ethical gains for Americans that are at risk are clear."
She continued: "However, economic opportunities are also at risk: at the moment, the US is in a leading position in the cellular agriculture arena, being one of the only two countries in the world where the sale of cultivated meat is permitted. If this bill is approved, Americans will also be at risk of losing the future economic gains linked to being early developers and early regulators of future-shaping technology."
"At ProVeg, we hope that ethical and sustainability gains and economic opportunities will prevail over political gameplay for the sake of the planet, animals and people in the US."
Curt Chaffin, GFI’s director of policy told The Cell Base: "Florida’s proposed bill would not only prohibit prospective academic research, manufacturing, and commerce, but it would also pose a significant threat to the free market—a cornerstone of Florida’s culture. This legislation would restrict consumer choice, stifle innovation, and prevent new economic growth opportunities."
He continued: "The government should not pick winners and losers in the marketplace. But this legislation does just that by threatening individuals with fines and jail time for producing or selling products. Dozens of cultivated meat companies are starting up around the US, representing nearly one-third of the global industry. By outlawing cultivated meat, the proposal would block American innovation and send new jobs and revenues overseas. This level of protectionism is unmatched in the State’s history and could spell the beginning of more and more government interference."
Florida’s proposed bill highlights the disconnect between meat and climate change in the US – a Washington Post poll in July revealed that 74% of Americans don’t believe consuming meat or dairy has any impact on climate change.
Sirois’ proposal reflects many Republicans’ stance on climate change – in one debate, the party’s presidential candidates refused to connect human activity to the ecological crisis, with one calling it a “hoax”.
In March, Italy’s government backed a bill banning the use of cell-based food, with breaching the rules potentially resulting in fines of up to €60,000. The country’s Agriculture Minister, Francesco Lollobrigida, said that Italy was the first nation to say no to “synthetic” food. He added that laboratory products do not guarantee quality or wellbeing, nor protect Italy’s culture and traditions. The Minister also stated that if cultivated food production were to succeed in establishing itself, it would produce greater unemployment.
Similarly, last month the Romanian Senate reportedly voted to prohibit the sale of cell-based meat, pending approval from the Chamber of Deputies, which has the final say. Violations would mean a fine between €40,000-60,000.
“This proposal threatens to cut Romania off from investment and job opportunities, undermine efforts to tackle climate change and restrict consumer choice,” GFI Europe’s policy manager Seth Roberts told Romania-Insider. “It would also leave Romania behind as countries around the world invest in cultivated meat as part of a future-proof food system.”