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Governor DeSantis Tells Residents of the “Free State of Florida” What Kind of Meat He Will Allow Them to Eat

Jeffrey A. Singer

On May 1, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) signed SB 1084 into law, which prohibits Floridians from buying or selling lab‐​grown meat. In a press release, the governor’s office stated, “Florida is increasing meat production” and urged Floridians to “continue to consume and enjoy 100 percent Florida beef.”

To his credit, unlike his culture war opponents who oppose genetically modified foods, the governor did not engage in hysterical junk science arguments about the safety of eating lab‐​grown meat.

Medical researchers and clinicians have been culturing and growing human tissue in laboratories for decades. In some cases, clinical researchers and oncologists cultivate tissue samples obtained from individuals’ tumors to study their unique biology and the effects that various therapeutic agents have on them.

It was only a matter of time before entrepreneurs applied the same technology to growing animal tissue, which enabled humans to consume meat without raising and slaughtering animals.

Historically, many early opponents of genetically modified foods were associated with left‐​wing politics, who claimed these foods were “an unnatural plot by evil capitalists to enslave food eaters.” Activists claimed genetically modified foods, which they often dubbed “Frankenfood,” were unhealthful. However, there is solid evidence that genetically modified foods are safe.

This time, opposition to lab‐​grown meat seems to be coming from right‐​wing culture warriors, the agriculture lobby, and politicians who pander to them. Lab‐​grown meat critics don’t challenge evidence that it is safe to eat. Rather they oppose lab‐​grown meat mainly because environmentalists and animal rights activists generally like the idea. Though recent studies suggest they may be wrong, many environmentalists have believed that growing meat will decrease the need for raising methane‐​producing cattle, thus helping to ease global warming. Animal rights activists promote lab‐​grown meat as an alternative to slaughtering animals.

But the culture war is not all that animates those opposing lab‐​grown meat. Another factor is good old‐​fashioned protectionism. Just as the taxi cartels united to oppose Uber and Lyft, many in the beef and poultry industries fear competition from lab‐​grown meat. The Florida governor’s press release was quite transparent on this in stating:

We must protect our incredible farmers and the integrity of American agriculture. Lab‐​grown meat is a disgraceful attempt to undermine our proud traditions and prosperity, and is in direct opposition to authentic agriculture.

Protectionism makes for strange political bedfellows. Commenting on Florida’s new lab‐​grown meat prohibition, Senator John Fetterman (D‑PA) posted on X:

Pains me deeply to agree with Crash‐​and‐​Burn Ron, but I co‐​sign this. As a member of @SenateAgDems.and as some dude who would never serve that slop to my kids, I stand with our American ranchers and farmers.

I can’t criticize opponents of lab‐​grown meat for making unscientific claims about its safety, but I can certainly point out the hypocrisy of their claim to be pro‐​freedom.

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