Editor's Plate: When Politics Gets in the Way of Food and Freedom

June 6, 2024
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis trashes cultured meat and, in the process, individual rights.

Update 6/10: I've corrected a misstatement in the earlier version, that Hydrox cookies are an imitation of Oreos. More on that at the end.

 

I had such a good laugh last month when Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis not only signed a bill banning cultivated/cultured meat but used it as an opportunity to spread some more conspiracies.

“Florida is taking action to stop the World Economic Forum’s goal of forcing the world to eat lab-grown meat and insects.” He later called cultured meat part of “the global elite’s plan … to achieve their authoritarian goals.”

Takes one to know one. And to think this guy could have been president.

First of all, I don’t think any state should ban cultivated meat. But if you do want to ban or restrict it, stick to the facts: It does sounds scary, it hasn’t been proven yet and it will hurt our animal-raising industry. There’s no need to connect it to some evil cabal that wants to rule the world.

Maybe this famous conspiracy theorist hasn’t gone far enough. I urge him to call out other threats to our American way of life. Like plant-based milks. Gluten-free foods. Sugar-free chocolates. All threaten the very foundations of democracy.

And where do the ingredients for those products come from? CHINA! In every imported pea protein isolate and stevia rebaudioside are tiny microchips (China’s good at that, too) recording information on every consumer of that product. As if our dependence on the products and ingredients wasn’t enough to bring us to our knees!

While you’re at it, Governor Ron, Florida needs to ban imported beers because – gosh darn – American beers are plenty good enough (and Anheuser-Busch has a brewery in Jacksonville). And Hydrox cookies because they compete with Oreos (and Mondelez has a group headquarters in Coral Gables). And private label colas, so Coca-Cola and PepsiCo – both of which have substantial investments in the state – can flourish.

“Our administration will continue to focus on investing [read that as ‘protecting’] our local farmers and ranchers,” the governor’s official statement said. “And our local beers, cookies and sodas.” [I made that last part up!]

Governor Ron and the majority of the Florida legislature aren’t alone in fretting about cultured meats; Alabama has a similar ban, and other states are considering legislation.

I’ve never been a fan of protectionism, although I think when applied selectively and appropriately, it can right some wrongs and save essential business categories. Tariffs and import bans are legitimate ways of leveling the playing field when American jobs are threatened by foreign government-funded attempts to steal a market.

But that’s not the case with cultivated meats. Arguably, the U.S. currently has the lead in developing meats and other food products from advanced bio-technologies, but China – YES, CHINA! – is gaining ground fast, and Netherlands and Israel have long been nurturing their own companies developing this technology.

Governor Ron has never been one interested in saving the rest of the world but for anyone looking outside their own backyard there is a looming food crisis as the world population swells. And don’t forget about the environmental toll animal-raising takes on the air, water and land – more things the Florida governor doesn’t appear concerned with.

One thing Governor Ron and I agree on is freedom of choice. The government shouldn’t be telling you what you can and cannot do, or in this case buy. He seems to have forgotten that plank in his presidential platform.

I may never eat a factory-grown burger, chicken tender or sushi roll, but I want the right to decide. Governor Ron has taken that inalienable right away from 23 million Floridians, and that’s un-American.

 

Now, back to that correction: Originally, I said Hydrox cookies were imitations of Oreos. As a reader – who prefers Hydrox – pointed out, Hydrox, created in 1908, predated Oreos by four years. Thanks for keeping me on my toes, Gerry!

About the Author

Dave Fusaro | Editor in Chief

Dave Fusaro has served as editor in chief of Food Processing magazine since 2003. Dave has 30 years experience in food & beverage industry journalism and has won several national ASBPE writing awards for his Food Processing stories. Dave has been interviewed on CNN, quoted in national newspapers and he authored a 200-page market research report on the milk industry. Formerly an award-winning newspaper reporter who specialized in business writing, he holds a BA in journalism from Marquette University. Prior to joining Food Processing, Dave was Editor-In-Chief of Dairy Foods and was Managing Editor of Prepared Foods.

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