GOP politicians like Ron DeSantis are trying to ban lab-grown meat, comparing it to bugs and claiming threats to ranches

Republican politicians in some states have a new target: meat raised in a lab instead of via animals.

At least seven states have considered bills so far in 2024 that would prohibit the distribution or sale of lab-grown meat, the Financial Times reported on Sunday. In each case, Republicans are leading the charge.

One of the most prominent examples is Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis has expressed opposition to lab-grown meat.

Both houses of the state legislature passed a bill in February that would ban sales of lab-grown meat, though it’s not clear whether DeSantis will sign the measure into law, the Times reported. DeSantis’ office did not reply to a request for comment from Business Insider.

Other states, such as Arizona and Tennessee, are considering similar bills.

Some of the legislation says that lab-grown meat — also known as cultured meat — threatens states’ current agricultural economies. A version of the Arizona proposal from February, for instance, repeatedly mentions that state’s cattle ranching industry.

“The production and sale of lab-grown, cell-cultured animal product threatens to harm Arizona’s trust land beneficiaries and the highest and best use of state trust land, which includes leasing state trust lands to ranchers for livestock grazing to fund public schools and other public institutions,” part of the bill reads. If passed, the legislation would create a civil penalty of up to $25,000 for selling or producing lab-grown meat in Arizona.

Other legislators have made more opaque attacks on lab-grown meat. Tennessee state Rep. Bud Hulsey said at a hearing in March that proponents of lab-grown meat “would probably like to eat bugs with Bill Gates,” according to the Times. Lab-grown meat relies on cells from commonly consumed animals in the US, such as chicken, beef, and fish.

For years, lab-grown meat startups have been promising meat without the need to slaughter animals. In the US, two major contenders in the field are Upside Foods and Good Meat, the lab-grown meat division of Eat Just, the company known for its mung bean-based scrambled egg mixture.

But despite hundreds of millions of dollars in funding — including from big names like Gates and Jeff Bezos — lab-grown meat startups don’t appear to be ready to start mass sales of their products. Last year, for example, Upside Foods partnered with a single San Francisco restaurant to serve its lab-grown chicken.

Some experts told The Counter in 2021 that mass production of lab-grown meat is essentially impossible for the startups using their current approach, which involves growing meat cells in large containers called bioreactors.

The technology has long been used to cultivate small batches of cells in the medical world — to produce vaccines, for instance — but it’s tough to produce the much larger quantities of cells that burgers or boxes of chicken nuggets would require, the experts said.

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Alex Bitter