The Florida House on Monday continued moving forward with a wide-ranging bill that includes banning sales of lab-grown meat in the state and preventing local governments from regulating electric-vehicle charging stations.
The Republican-controlled House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee voted 9-3 to approve the bill (HB 1071), which deals with Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services regulatory issues.
Federal agencies have deemed lab-grown, also known as “cultivated,” meat safe to eat. But bill sponsor Danny Alvarez, R-Hillsborough County, said the legislation, supported by the state’s agriculture industry, “pumps the brakes” on the food to ensure it is safe.
“Right now, we don’t have the information for a consumer to make an educated, informed consensual decision,” Alvarez said.
“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,” Alvarez added.
Cultivated meat involves a process of taking a small number of cultured cells from animals and growing them in controlled settings to make food.
Supporters of cultivated meat called the legislation “anti-free market” and argued it will benefit China, which is researching the products.
Rep. Lindsay Cross, D-St. Petersburg, said cultivated meat won’t replace traditional agriculture in the Florida but is needed as the industry faces further pressure from the state’s growing population.
“As we run out of ag lands, we will have to look at alternative food systems,” Cross said. ““I would rather have that come from Florida than China.”
The bill would make it a second-degree misdemeanor to sell manufactured meat in Florida.
The bill was revised Monday to remove a proposed ban on manufacturing the product in Florida. Such a ban on manufacturing could have affected research and potentially the space industry.
“One of the things we were concerned about is that cultivated meat may be one of the ways that we’re able to feed astronauts,” subcommittee Chairman Rep. Thad Altman, R-Indialantic, said. “You aren’t going to have cattle grazing on Mars anytime soon or on a space station at a distant location.”
Several backers of cultivated meat said the revision was a good step but that it wouldn’t go far enough to ease venture capitalists’ concerns about investing in biotechnologies in Florida.
“A ban like this threatens a free market and sets a dangerous precedent for government interference,” said Emily Bogan, of New Jersey-based Fork & Good, Inc. “We want to ensure that affordable meat is available for generations to come.”
Justin Kolbeck, co-founder of San Francisco-based seafood company Wildtype, said the revised measure will still likely announce Florida as “closed.”
“Far from protecting American jobs, banning cultivated seafood in the United States will deepen our country’s dependence on imports from countries like China,” Kolbeck said. “This ban will create Chinese jobs at the expense of small businesses like mine. And this ban will also stifle innovation in Florida as investment dollars are redirected towards more business-friendly states.”
Another part of Alvarez’s bill that drew discussion would prevent local governments from regulating electric-vehicle charging stations. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services oversees pumps at gas stations.
Alvarez said the change will promote business through “uniformity.”
“That way, the rules in Hillsborough are the same as the rules in Miami, are the same as the rules in Duval County,” Alvarez said. “And that way, businesses can operate, they can flourish, they’ll know what they (the rules) are … if they are statewide.”
Florida has 3,230 public charging stations in 44 of the 67 counties, and a staff analysis of the bill said electric vehicles made up nearly 3 percent of cars sold in Florida from July 2020 to July 2021.
Kim Ross, of ReThink Energy Florida, called the proposed preemption of local regulation “overreaching” and warned it could “stifle” growth in the industry.
“Gas pumps are significantly different than EV charging stations,” Ross said. “EV charging stations can be outside of businesses such as malls, restaurants and hotels and will actually bring business to them.”
A 2021 state law already prohibits local governments from mandating such things as electric-vehicle charging stations on gas retailers. That law was in reaction to a move by Petaluma, Calif., to ban new gas stations with the intention of accelerating the shift to electric vehicles.
The bill needs approval from the House Infrastructure Strategies Committee before it could go to the full House. A Senate version (SB 1084) needs to clear the Fiscal Policy Committee before it could go to the full Senate.
–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida