U.S. – The Alabama House of Representatives has passed a bill aimed at prohibiting the manufacture, sale, and distribution of food products derived from cultured animal cells rather than live animals.

The measure, known as SB23, was introduced by Sen. Jack Williams, a Republican from Mobile County. It received strong support and passed with a vote of 85-14. However, due to amendments made in the House, the bill has now been returned to the Senate for further consideration.

Despite limited discussion on the bill, Rep. Danny Crawford, R-Athens, who advocated for its passage in the House, derided the concept of cell-cultured meat during his brief explanation.

He characterized the process as simply mixing animal cells with chemicals and ingredients to produce meat, drawing some laughter but no substantive inquiries from fellow House members.

However, Rep. Marilyn Lands, D-Huntsville, voiced opposition to the bill, denouncing it as government overreach. Lands highlighted the contradiction with conservative principles of free market advocacy, questioning the need for legislative interference in people’s food choices and potentially criminalizing the sale of approved foods.

The bill underwent an amendment stipulating that it would not hinder government agencies or universities in Alabama from researching cultivated food products. This modification acknowledges the importance of scientific exploration in the field of food production.

Interestingly, Alabama is just one of the many states seeking a ban on the sale of cell-cultured meat. In a notable move, Florida recently enacted legislation, becoming the first state in the nation to prohibit the sale of “lab-grown” meat.

Florida’s bill makes it unlawful for any person to manufacture for sale, sell, hold or offer for sale, or distribute cultivated meat in the state, punishable by up to 60 days in jail. Food establishments that sell or serve the stuff are also subject to penalties including loss of commercial licenses.

Currently, Arizona and Tennessee are also deliberating legislation aimed at banning the production or sale of cell-cultivated meat, despite the fact that such products are not yet commercially available anywhere in the country.

Regulatory landscape and industry growth

The emergence of cell-cultured meat has prompted regulatory scrutiny and industry growth worldwide.

Seen as the solution to the world’s ballooning population, alternative proteins without the need for animals, and as a way to mitigate increasing climate pressures, companies are attracting billions in investments and the R&D race is well and truly on.

In the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved companies to produce such products for commercial sale. Notably, last year saw UPSIDE Foods and GOOD Meat debut cell-cultured chicken at select restaurants in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Sixteen states, along with the federal government, have already implemented regulations pertaining to the labeling of cell-cultivated meat. These regulations often prohibit companies from using terms like “meat” in their marketing and require the inclusion of disclosures explaining the use of cell-cultured products in the product.

While the United States and Singapore are among the few countries permitting the sale of cell-cultured meat, the industry faces significant challenges. These include scaling up production, achieving taste and texture parity with traditional meat, and reducing production costs.

Last year, Italy became the first country to officially slam the brakes on the global surge of cultured meat, igniting a heated clash between tradition and innovation.

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