The diverse assembly of CEOs, scientists, entrepreneurs and investors hailed from plant-based and cellular agriculture companies including Eat Just (parent company of JUST Egg and GOOD Meat), Finless Foods, Impossible Foods, Next Gen Foods, Oatly and trade associations, including Plant-Based Food Association (PBFA), and non-profits, including the Good Food Institute (GFI).
Penny Eastman, associate legislative director, GFI, noted “strong interest in the alternative protein legislative agenda” by congressional leaders with several representatives in California, Oregon and Texas “pledging to work with the sector on the Farm Bill and other important policy objectives.”
“A more sustainable and resilient food system”
In conjunction with the upcoming 2023 Farm Bill reauthorization in September, the delegation is pushing for more infrastructure that supports farmers and sustainable food production methods.
Rachel Dreskin, CEO, PBFA elaborated, “The Farm Bill represents a powerful opportunity for policymakers to bolster infrastructure and support farmers to enable them to be active participants and beneficiaries in a more sustainable and resilient food system.”
Oatly highlighted its agricultural partnerships with farmers in the Midwest, advocating for more resources and infrastructure to push climate-smart practices forward for oat production.
“At Oatly, we envision a 2023 Farm Bill that will make growing crops like oats a viable option in the US,” Sara Fletcher, communications and public affairs director, Oatly North America told FoodNavigator-USA.
Other suggestions from Oatly include removing crop insurance barriers, educating more local trainers on conservation practices to support farmers implementing new methods and setting climate targets for the U.S. food system.
Plant-based food retail sales surpassed $8 billion in 2022, which is a significant opportunity for the current food system to direct its resources towards reinforcing jobs and workforce development throughout the supply chain, Nicole Negowetti, VP food policy systems, PBFA, explained to FoodNavigator-USA.
She added, “There is ample opportunity for jobs in plant-based ingredient processing, transportation, and more to support a shift towards a more plant-based centric food system.”
Negowetti elaborated further about opportunities within agricultural research to “improve the health of U.S. crops through methods such as biofortification, improve soil health using regenerative farming practices, and invest in education and infrastructure to ensure the resiliency of U.S. agriculture in the face of climate change.”
Communicating health and safety data will be critical for cell-cultured meat
Implementing safety and health policies on cultivated meat has been in the works since 2019. The Cell-Cultured Meat and Poultry Regulation Act of 2019 was introduced in the Senate in April 2019 which requires USDA and FDA to oversee cell-cultured meat and poultry.
While the FDA must oversee “cell collection, cell banks and cell growth and differentiation,” the USDA will authorize “processing, preparation, packaging and labeling of food products."
More recently, as reported by Food Navigator-USA, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) referred to a panel of 13 technical experts on product safety and regulatory review processes, including hazards during cell sourcing and cell harvesting, among others—all underscoring the need for policymakers to promote health and safety data in this segment.
At this point in progressing sustainable American food innovation, it’s critical for policy makers to build transparent safety and regulatory review communications. Given that Asia Pacific and Europe (despite pushback in Italy) are leading the cell-cultured meat segment, distributing clear health and safety data to the public will contribute to diffusing some of the current negative perceptions of cell-cultured meat.
Further, cultivated meat as a climate mitigation solution may help companies secure more funding. Food Navigator-USA previously reported on the potentially significant impact climate tech funding could have on backing scaling, sourcing, infrastructure, regulatory approval and consumer acceptance.
Securing the future of American agriculture, biotechnology and biomanufacturing
Given the goals outline in the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative executive Order, alternative proteins, including cultivated meat, are positioned as key components in safeguarding the future American biotechnology and biomanufacturing industries.
Despite nascent regulations and policies in Asia Pacific and Europe, these regions’ plant-based and cell cultured industries are seeing more investment and innovation compared to the U.S. The delegation urged the U.S. government to “create a market and regulatory ecosystem that allows for innovation and maintains U.S. competitiveness.”
Tindle / Next Gen Foods remarked that the Washington gathering “allowed us to have a robust discussion for the first time as a delegation and raise awareness about how the American food system needs sustainable and secure solutions.”