TALLAHASSEE, FL—A sweeping Florida bill is facing backlash over its proposed ban on lab-grown meat, with opponents fearing limited consumer choices, a weakened American economy, and an increase in Chinese jobs.
HB 1071, sponsored by Republican Rep. Danny Alvarez, proposes an all-out ban on the manufacture or sale of cultivated meat, branding violators with a second-degree misdemeanor. "What we are doing is putting the safety of Floridians first," Alvarez said Monday. "The Federal Government says it's totally safe, but we're saying—is it?"
Lab-grown, or cultivated, meat was approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture last June. The meat is created by taking a few cells from an animal and growing them in a controlled environment. The cellular material can then be harvested and prepared using conventional food processing and packaging methods.
The bill faced opposition from Democrats and small business owners, citing concerns of innovation stifling and the potential "loss" to China in the new "protein arms race,".
"We import 70-85 percent of our seafood. Far from protecting American jobs, banning cultivated seafood in the United States will deepen our country's dependence on countries like China," said Justin Kolbeck, the founder of a cultivated seafood company called Wildtype. "This ban will create Chinese jobs at the expense of small businesses like mine,"
"This ban will also stifle innovation in Florida as investment dollars are redirected toward more business-friendly states...Florida is sending a clear message to innovators around the world that it is closed for business," He added.
Bill Helmich, a lobbyist for Food Solutions Action and The Good Food Institute, agreed during a February hearing.
“We’re running into another wall right now, and that is a protein wall. We’re running out of protein. Currently, the global protein demand has increased by 50% since 2000 and is projected to double by 2020," He said.
"China knows this and we know this. We’re entering into a protein arms race with China. China is including cultivated meat as part of its blueprint for meat moving forward. A China that controls the protein of the world will control the world,” He added.
HB 1071 is heavily backed by Gov. DeSantis and the Florida Department of Agriculture. “You need meat, okay?” DeSantis said in early February. “We’re going to have meat in Florida. We’re not going to do that fake meat. Like, that doesn’t work.”
"Our job is to protect our citizens. As a Republican, I take it extremely seriously when we go to regulate a consumer market when we believe in the free market, but I also believe in making sure that your children and your families are safe," Rep. Alvarez said in his close on the bill. "It might be safe, but until we have long-term studies that tell me what lab-grown, immortalized cells do to your body, I challenge you to put it in your child,"
"Florida is closed for experimentation on our citizens," He added.
In a 9-3 vote, the bill passed the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee, and will head to its final committee stop before the House Floor, the Infrastructure Strategies Committee.