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Idaho legislator introduces bill to prohibit 'vaccine or vaccine material' in food

Senator Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton, said in committee vaccines are being introduced into food for human consumption.

BOISE, Idaho — A Republican Idaho senator introduced a bill on Tuesday to the Commerce and Human Resources Committee that would prohibit "vaccines or vaccine materials" in food, with the exception that consumers are notified.

Sen. Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton, introduced the draft legislation for printing, which would amend the Idaho Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The bill would prohibit the manufacturing and sale of food with "a vaccine or vaccine materials" unless there is a alert present notifying consumers of the "materials."

Nichols said in the Tuesday meeting that in California, "they've been given grants" to start "introducing vaccine products into food for human consumption" and said it "is a newer type of precedent being set” worldwide.

"People want to know what's in their food," Nichols said. "I do know of mRNA is one they are looking at trying to add into, right now, lettuce, for public consumption."

The committee inquired about the piece of legislation, and whether or not that would pertain to livestock and affect livestock owners.

Nichols said she would provide more information when the bill receives a hearing.

According to a University of California Riverside press release from 2021, researchers at this school were given a $500,000 grant to test if mRNA can be hosted in plants like lettuce and spinach, with a long-term potential goal for people to choose to grow them in their own gardens -- if the attempt is possible. It is unclear if Nichols was referring to this study in particular. 

Jules Bernstein, the public information officer for UC Riverside, told KTVB in an email that their study is merely an experiment and that currently, no genetically engineered food containing vaccines exists.

"Even if such a thing were possible, there is a very long distance between a successful laboratory experiment and any kind of implementation. Like any drug, we fully expect any commercial product resulting from this research would be highly regulated," Bernstein said. "Lawmakers, as well as companies who commercialize drugs, generally determine where and how medicines are sold, not the researchers who develop them. It is extremely doubtful that such a thing would be sold without some kind of regulation."

It's unclear how Nichols would address vaccinated livestock, but vaccinations given to beef cattle "are an integral tool for preventing disease and maintaining herd health," according to the USDA Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APIS).

"Vaccinations can improve overall herd health, resulting in decreased death loss and improved productivity. In addition, vaccinations can improve reproductive efficiency by reducing infertility, embryonic and fetal deaths, and abortions," APIS says in a December 2009 study.

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