Banning Lab-Grown Meat

Terry Schwadron
4 min readMay 15, 2024

Terry H. Schwadron

May 15, 2024

Perhaps we should just file recent votes in the Florida Legislature as examples of our government at work, solving problems that we hadn’t really recognized as requiring top-level attention.

Sometimes the votes become vehicles for Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to use as a cudgel against “woke” culture, though occasionally they are not.

In recent weeks, for example, DeSantis signed a legislative ban on the manufacture and distribution of lab-grown meat.The governor tweeted in explanation that “Global elites want to control our behavior and push a diet of petri dish meat and bugs on Americans. Florida is saying no.”

On the other hand, the legislature acted in a bipartisan manner on a different pressing matter — to ban the intentional release of balloons outdoors because too many land in the ocean and can harm wildlife. Florida actually was following several other states that have banned the growing trend of releasing a bevy of balloons as party entertainment.

Meanwhile, of course, there are issues involving health care, hunger, immigration, and the continuing collapse of home insurance in a state with among the highest rates of claims resulting from storms and tornados (including just last weekend in Tallahassee) seen as increasing with climate changes.

This is the same Florida Legislature we know for anti-gay school rules, for backing the banning of books and lowering the boom on abortions after six weeks of conception, before most women know that they are pregnant — all actions with enactment first and unanswered questions later.

‘Save Our Beef’

DeSantis explained at his bill signing that the bill to outlaw lab-grown meat was intended to meet a “threat” to Florida’s agriculture. “Take your fake lab-grown meat elsewhere. We’re not doing that in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said in defense of a first-in-the-nation law to protect farmers and the “integrity of American agriculture.”

Lab-grown meat is developed from animal stem cells. According to a European food agency, the first cultivated beef patty was created in 2013, and as of 2023, there were about 60 startups around the world working on it. The ban does not include Impossible meat, which is made from plant-based ingredients.

Plus, the world still faces hunger issues, and cattle-ranching is seen as adding to climate change.

The bill originally had called for an end to any research of lab-grown meat but was removed out of concern that such a ban could adversely affect the space industry, which is looking at cultivated meats for long space journeys.

The bill signing was in Hardee County, one of the leading areas in the state for cattle farming, which takes up about half of the state’s lands for agriculture. Most cattle in Florida are raised for beef. Beef cattle sales and sales of breeding stock generate more than $900 million annually, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

So, this feels like politics as normal — policy to answer entrench economic interests with influence in Tallahassee, famously like fossil fuel industries or the gun-making world.. It belies the question: If consumers find lab-grown products so bad, why does the cattle industry need special legislative protection?

But then DeSantis offered his gracious political anti-woke touch, ridiculing liberal elites whom he associated with adjustments to climate change. “They will say that you can’t drive an internal combustion engine vehicle. They’ll say that agriculture is bad. Meanwhile, they’re flying to Davos in their private jets,” DeSantis said. He poked fun at The World Economic Forum, an international non-governmental organization, that has advocated for insects as an alternative edible protein source instead of animal protein.

As it happens, the all-purpose agriculture bill sponsored by Sen. Jay Collins, R-Tampa, also preempts local regulations for electric vehicles and prohibits the willful destroying, harvesting, or selling of saw palmetto berries on private or public land without permission and hikes penalties for trespassing on commercial agricultural property.

Soaring Balloons

By comparison, the balloon ban, which sounds odd at first, seems to address a real problem, though the motivation is as much about the image of clean beaches as about saving wildlife.

Those bunches of balloons routinely now released at outdoor wedding and gender-reveal parties are 32 times more likely to kill seabirds than other types of plastic debris landing in the ocean. For that matter, it is unclear what balloons have to do with either weddings or gender-reveal parties.

Nevertheless, a growing number of states to ban the intentional release of balloons outdoors. The Florida ban takes effect on July 1.

Unlike much of the unusual bills emerging in Florida, this one won bipartisan support with environmentalists warning that water animals (and some land animals, including cows) often mistake balloons for jellyfish and feel full after eating them, contributing to eventual starvation. Ribbons entangle turtles and manatees, the sponsors said.

A balloon industry statement recognized “the importance of promoting responsible balloon usage and ensuring safe access to these joy-inspiring products.

In any case, the bill overturns a loophole from a previous balloon cap that had allowed release of up to nine balloons per person in a single day. It makes balloons filled with gas lighter than air as littering, a fineable offense. The ban also applies to outdoor releases of any balloons described as biodegradable. It allows sale of balloons for indoor use or outdoor decorations if secured.

Nevertheless, the ban is somewhat ironic. Previously, the same Legislature voted to prohibit counties and localities from regulating single use plastics and plastic bags. Apparently keeping the beaches clear of dead animals is a priority. The city of Miami had banned party balloons from marinas, parks, and beaches, and in 2022, the state barred cigarettes and vaping from beaches.

You’d almost think that DeSantis would want to release some balloons to celebrate.