“If we can grow meat without the animal, why wouldn’t we?”
This wouldn’t be a surprising statement to overhear at a vegetarian or environmental conference or even The Good Food Conference, for that matter. You might hear it in a pitch to a Silicon Valley venture capitalist or see it as part of a grant application to GFI’s Competitive Grants program.
But if you had told me several years ago that the CEO of Tyson Foods—the largest meat producer in North America—would be making the perfect one-sentence case for removing the animal from meat production (and in a cover story for Bloomberg at that!), well, I probably wouldn’t have believed you.
Yet this was just one of 2018’s remarkable advances. Given that GFI’s Policy Team has been working hard to ensure that meat made without animals is treated fairly in the market, we were extremely gratified with what may be the most important developments yet: the FDA and USDA announcing a clear regulatory pathway for clean meat.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. It has taken many people and a lot of effort to get to this point. We have worked closely with companies in this space, organizations that represent the future consumers of clean meat, elected officials, and other friends to make progress. Here is an abbreviated timeline of our work in the months leading up to that major announcement:
On Wednesday, June 27, we participated on a panel of clean meat experts who presented to the Advisory Committee for the Congressional Research and Development Caucus Committee. There, before a standing-room-only crowd, we made our case for why clean meat was important and worthy of significant federal research funding.
In July, GFI spoke at the FDA’s hearing on foods produced using animal cell culture technology. As a follow-up, we worked with BlueNalu, Mosa Meat, Seafuture, and SuperMeat, to submit an official comment for the public record.
Following this, the FDA and USDA announced a joint meeting regarding clean meat. In the runup to this gathering, we took to the pages of the The Hill to make the case for continued leadership by the United States in agricultural innovation.
At the meeting itself, our Senior Regulatory Specialist Elan Abrell presented GFI’s opening statement, placing special emphasis on Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s observation that “We don’t want this new technology to feel like they’ve got to go offshore or outside the United States to get a fair regulatory protocol.” In the afternoon, I made the case that the existing regulatory framework had all the necessary pieces and expertise to oversee cell-based meat production and sale, with no new legislation necessary. (More on that meeting here.)
All this led to November 16, 2018, when the FDA and USDA issued their plan for joint oversight of clean meat.
So what will 2019 hold? The agencies will issue detailed guidelines on how regulation will work, we expect.
GFI’s policy team will be working hard in other areas in the coming year as well. We will defend the First Amendment rights of plant-based meat companies, continuing to push forward with our Missouri lawsuit against that unconstitutional state law. We will also continue to make the constitutional case for plant-based milks.
And, of course, we will continue to do everything possible to usher in the clean meat revolution as quickly as possible. There is much work for our policy team—from making sure the formal FDA / USDA guidelines are straightforward and fair, to working with the appropriate agencies in other countries to make sure clean meat can help feed the world. GFI will remain a vanguard of a sustainable and just food system.