NCBA’s Lane says investments into lab-grown protein isn’t about sustainability

North Carolina State has received a $30 million grant over five years from the Bezos Earth Fund to create a biomanufacturing hub for dietary proteins.

Ethan Lane, vice president of government affairs with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association this isn’t a surprise. “World’s richest man makes investment in something that he hopes will pay huge dividends,” he says. “And then directs his philanthropic work towards a perceived problem with traditional protein products.”

The center will partner with both academia and industry to research, create, and commercialize new technologies for manufacturing various protein products.

He tells Brownfield this is a business decision. “This isn’t about climate,” he says. “This isn’t about anything other than business and dollars and cents. These products are creeping people out. They’re still incredibly unvetted.”

Several states have taken legislative action to address the sale of lab-grown proteins. In 2018, Missouri was the first state to require special labels for cell-cultivated proteins.  Montana and Texas also require labels to inform consumers that food contains lab-grown proteins, and Florida and Alabama have banned its sale.

Lane says some state legislators say the bills go too far, while other bills don’t go far enough. “The porridge is never just quite right, you know,” he says. “And that’s the nature of 50 state legislatures.  All kind of trying to find their own way. But I think the important take away from that isn’t the specifics of an individual bill. It’s the rising tide of concern that it’s reflecting.”

The Bezos Center for Sustainable Protein launched last week.  The Bezos Earth Fund has committed $100 million to establish a network of open-access research and development centers focused on sustainable protein alternatives.

Brownfield interviewed Lane during the NCBA’s Young Cattlemen’s Conference.

AUDIO: Ethan Lane, NCBA

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