Our friends at Hungry Planet and Beyond Meat make products that are a lot of things: mouthwatering, innovative, and even efficient (think water and land use, just to name a few!). But to certain entrenched interests, they’re also threatening. So threatening in fact, that some incumbents are asking the government for protection from the startups.
At the state level, the Missouri legislature has passed an omnibus spending bill that includes language intended to censor plant-based and clean meat companies. The language — sponsored by a former livestock auctioneer and supported by the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association — intends to restrict the use of the word “meat.”
GFI’s Director of Policy Jessica Almy, Esq. notes three problems with these attempts to restrict honest, descriptive labels:
Government censorship of labels would violate the First Amendment.
Missouri-specific censorship would create market chaos.
Prohibiting clear and descriptive labels is unfair to competitors and consumers.
Jessica is making GFI’s case in the media (for example, in Mother Jones and The Associated Press), and we are currently evaluating next steps, including likely litigation.
At the federal level, the House Committee on Appropriations advanced a spending bill that includes language dictating that the USDA will have regulatory authority over the safety and labeling of clean meat products. An amendment to strip the language regarding clean meat was voted down. GFI is leading a coalition pushing back on this language, and Jessica is again making the case in the media (e.g., Food Navigator and Politico), pointing out that a spending bill is the wrong venue for mandating a regulatory structure.
In a letter that GFI sent to the House Appropriations Committee, Jessica explains:
The provision in the spending bill should be struck for at least four reasons:
- First, a spending bill is the wrong venue to mandate that an agency create new food regulations….
- Second, this regulatory issue is properly in the purview of the agencies entrusted to oversee food safety. Both FDA and USDA are considering how clean meat should be regulated; they are perfectly capable of using existing regulations to oversee this new method of producing meat.
- Third, the small businesses who would be directly impacted by this provision have not been consulted….
- Fourth, Congress should not create new regulations that could slow down innovation…. Before Congress acts, it should examine the possibility that this new regulatory scheme will harm the U.S. in the technological race forward to clean meat commercialization.
Like Tyson, Cargill, Maple Leaf, PHW Group, and other meat companies, we believe it is important to brace innovation. GFI is continuing to work with our coalition partners to make sure that plant-based and clean meat are able to compete fairly on a level playing field.
Watch this space!