Recent events in Israel and legislative developments in the United States have cast a spotlight on the burgeoning cultivated meat industry, a sector critical not only for Israel’s food security but also for its strategic partnership with the U.S.
In the early hours of October 7, the worst terrorist attack in Israel’s history occurred when Hamas murdered, raped, and tortured more than a thousand Israeli civilians. The horror of that day – and the aftermath still unfolding – will forever be immortalized in many of our memories. While the horror of that day understandably remains the focus, other serious threats to Israel’s long term security are coming into focus and should be examined; specifically, Israel’s ability to feed its citizens when surrounded by hostile neighbors.
With much of the terrorist attack focused on farm communities, more than 10,000 foreign agricultural workers have left Israel. This labor crisis, occurring during harvest season, exposed a profound vulnerability in Israel’s food system, heavily reliant on foreign workers for essential agricultural processes.
Israel’s food production vulnerability coincides with a worrying development in Florida: a state representative named Tyler Sirois has proposed a bill to ban the sale of cultivated meat. What Mr. Sirois may not have realized when introducing this bill is that he’s attacking a vital area of U.S.-Israel collaboration aimed at strengthening Israel’s food security.
To put it simply, if you are a country covered by desert land and surrounded by adversarial countries, being able to produce your own food is absolutely critical for the country’s survival. That is why Israel so strongly believes that the cultivated meat industry is essential.
Israel has been aware of this, which is why Israel has emerged as a leader in alternative proteins, with significant global investment. Since 2020, Israel has shown sustained leadership in alternative proteins, attracting 24% ($637 million) of the global investment in cultivated meat, placing Israel second only to the United States and well ahead of other countries. Such investments constitute a significant share of food and climate tech investments in Israel, highlighting the sector’s importance. Moreover, the Israel Innovation Authority’s support for alternative proteins has been instrumental in this growth. This sector is crucial for the country’s economic resilience and food security, especially given the current agricultural labor shortage.
Cultivated meat, grown naturally from animal cells in a disease-free laboratory environment, offers a sustainable and labor-efficient alternative to traditional farming. It can significantly reduce environmental impacts and bolster Israel’s self-sufficiency in food production, thereby reducing its reliance on imported meat and mitigating vulnerabilities to external shocks.
However, Rep. Sirois’ proposed bill threatens to disrupt this industry by undermining its ability to succeed domestically. The U.S.-Israel partnership in biotechnology and food tech is a cornerstone of their scientific collaboration. Hindering the cultivated meat sector could jeopardize Israel’s efforts to secure its future food production and potentially harm a key area of U.S.-Israel scientific cooperation. In addition, there are several leading Israeli cultivated meat companies making investments in the United States, and Rep. Sirois’ bill would prohibit those companies from selling products in Florida, which is the most insulting and unnecessary provocation toward both the public and private sectors of Israel, the United States’ strongest ally.
The twin challenges of the labor crisis in Israeli agriculture and potential U.S. legislation banning cultivated meat highlight the sector’s significance. Cultivated meat is not just about food innovation; it’s about Israel’s national security, economic resilience, and its strategic partnership with the U.S. It is crucial to recognize the importance of this industry and ensure its unfettered development for a secure, sustainable future.