The South Dakota State Legislature has passed a bill that would prohibit cell-cultured proteins grown in a lab to be labeled as meat in South Dakota.
The South Dakota State Legislature has passed a bill that would prohibit cell-cultured proteins grown in a lab to be labeled as meat in South Dakota.

 

From CBW News Desk 


The South Dakota State Legislature passed Senate Bill 68 on Monday, March 4, 2019. Considered a win for South Dakota’s livestock industry and consumers, the bill prohibits labeling cell-cultured protein as meat in South Dakota.

“Senate Bill 68 sends the message that our state’s leaders care about protecting our livestock industry as well as South Dakotans’ right to know where their food comes from,” says Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President and a fourth-generation cattle producer.

Truth in labeling is a policy focus for South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU). In October 2018, the organization sent livestock producers to Washington, D.C., to testify before the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in opposition to labeling cell-cultured protein as meat. SDFU is among the state’s largest family farmer and rancher organization.

At the same time, SDFU launched an effort to educate their members and the general public on the potential dangers labeling cell-cultured protein as meat would have on consumers’ right to know what they are eating as well as the devastating impact it would have on the state’s livestock industry.

Another organization, the South Dakota Stockgrowers also helped bring about the state legislation that was acted upon this week. 

Earlier this winter, SD Stockgrower’s President and ranch Gary Deering had said in The Cattle Business Weekly that the “biggest concern and reason for the bill has long been the fact that the SD Stockgrowers want consumers to have the ability to make informed decisions when it comes to the food that they eat.”

Senate Bill 68 sponsor, District 17 Sen. Art Rusch, credits SDFU’s efforts with motivating him to sponsor the bill. He first learned about the issue by reading Farmers Union and the South Dakota Stockgrowers newsletters.

“I’m not a cattleman. I don’t raise livestock. But, I think it is important that South Dakota take a position to protect our livestock industry,” explained Rusch, a retired circuit judge and writer who represents Clay and Turner counties.

Senate Bill 68 passed unanimously. The bill reserves the term, “meat,” to be used only for protein harvested from animal carcasses, by amending the adulterated and misbranded food chapter of the South Dakota Codified Law code section 39 - 4 to further define the term “meat.” 

“You see more and more that consumers care about the source, treatment and safety of the meat they eat,” explains District 29 Sen. Gary Cammack, a Union Center cattle rancher and business owner serving as chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “Our goal is to make sure consumers know when they buy something labeled as meat, it is what they traditionally considered as meat, harvested from an animal’s carcass and proven to be safe.”

As a fourth-generation livestock producer, Cammack understands the necessity of Senate Bill 68 to protect consumer trust and South Dakota’s livestock industry. “As livestock producers, we are not afraid of competition. Having said that, we don’t want our competition to build their business on our more than a century old, hard-earned reputation for producing a quality and safe product,” Cammack says.

Members of the House agree, says District 28A Rep. Oren Lesmeister. “Our cattle producers spent the last hundred years making sure that U.S. beef is the No. 1, safest meat - we have the most stringent standards and regulations in place to ensure this. Now, if we were to allow this new technology to label its product as meat, and if there was a safety issue with this product, it could completely collapse our industry,” says Lesmeister, a Parade rancher, small business owner and the bill’s prime sponsor.

Legislators Rusch, Cammack and Lesmeister are optimistic their actions will impact Congressional leaders to take a stand on the issue.

“I hope our state’s representative and senators will take notice and take on this issue at the national level,” Lesmeister said.

Sources: South Dakota Farmers Union & SD Stockgrowers