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European MPs back embryo stem cell research

19 November 2003
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 234

The European Parliament has voted in Strasbourg today in favour of allowing European funds to be used for scientific research using stem cells derived from human embryos. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) also rejected proposed amendments from the European Commission that would have prevented research on embryonic stem cell (ES cell) lines created after 27 June 2002. Today's vote was a nod to the parliament's Industrial Committee, which last week voted in favour of the use of stem cells in medical research.

In July, the European Commission proposed to allow EU-funded research using ES cell lines newly derived from stored human embryos, but only in countries where ES cell research is not prohibited by national laws. Representatives from some European countries opposed to ES cell research had argued that the funding ban should be extended.

When it was originally formulated, the European research funding programme (Framework Programme 6) permitted funding for establishing new ES cell lines. But in September 2002, after opposition from a number of countries (including Italy, Germany, Austria, Ireland and Portugal) opposed to the deliberate creation of embryos for research, the European Parliament voted against all forms of human cloning and put heavy restrictions on research on ES cells taken from early human embryos. In response, the governing bodies in Europe agreed to prohibit funding and also to limit, until 31 December 2003, funding for ES cell research using already stored ES cell lines.

In response to the parliamentary vote, the European Commission then proposed the establishment of a Europe-wide registry of ES cell lines, and said that research should only be allowed on ES cells harvested from left over IVF embryos created before 27 June 2002 (the date of the adoption of the Framework Programme).

The European Parliament voted on the Commission's latest proposals today. The vote, which was expected to be close, approved funding and rejected the proposed cut-off time by 298 to 214, with 21 abstentions. The result of the vote, while itself having no effect, will send a message to the Council of Ministers. The Council, representing the EU, is due to decide on 27 November whether to lift a moratorium on funding (in place until 31 December) for any research projects involving embryos left over from fertility treatments and for ES cell research using already banked ES cells.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
EU Parliament says yes to embryo cell research
Reuters |  19 November 2003
MEPs back research on stem cells
BBC News Online |  19 November 2003
MEPs vote for embryo stem cell research
The Independent |  20 November 2003
MEPs vote to support stem cell research
The Guardian |  20 November 2003
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