Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have agreed to share regulation of “cultured meat” products, otherwise known as lab meat, cell-cultured food products and synthetic meat.
The agreement to regulate food products cultured from animal cells opens the door lab meat to at last make it to American plates. Lab meat backers also argue the product does away with slaughtering animals and will reduce both suffering and greenhouse emissions.
A form of cellular agriculture, lab meat is produced by the in vitro cultivation of animal cells, instead of from slaughtered animals.
The concept for cultured meat was popularized by Jason Matheny in the early 2000s. Matheny co-authored a seminal paper on cultured meat production and established New Harvest, the world’s first non-profit organization dedicated to supporting in vitro meat research.
Under the agreement with USDA, the FDA will oversee the collection and differentiation of cells, which is the point when stem cells develop to specialized cells. USDA will oversee production and labeling of food products.
“This regulatory framework will leverage both the FDA’s experience regulating cell-culture technology and living biosystems and the USDA’s expertise in regulating livestock and poultry products for human consumption,” said a joint statement from both government agencies.
The agencies also see no need for Congress to pass legislation on the matter.
Supporters of lab meat say this product is a sustainable option to feed growing populations hungry for protein.
“American consumers deserve a wide array of healthy, humane, and sustainable choices,” said Jessica Almy, policy director at The Good Food Institute.
The champions of lab meat, however, disagree with farming organizations about whether such products should be called “meat.” The federal government has issued no ruling about this issue.
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