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US stem cell regulation news

23 January 2006
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 342

The House of Representatives in the US state of Delaware has voted 32-3 in favour of legislation banning human cloning but making no mention of embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research. The bill (called SB 80) was the result of a compromise, having had language regulating ES cell research removed at an earlier stage of the debate. The bill originally stated that ES cell research could take place on embryos left over from fertility treatments and donated for research by those who no longer needed them. However, the bill's terms now only prohibit human cloning for reproductive purposes, and the sale of embryos.

The original version of the bill, sponsored by Democratic state Senator Robert Venables and Republican state Representative Deborah Hudson, had already been approved by the state Senate last June by 14 votes to seven. Earlier this month, the House of Representatives held a public hearing of arguments from supporters and opponents of the bill, which, while allowing ES cell research to be conducted on surplus embryos, would not have provided for any state funds to be given over for ES cell research. It also would have prohibited the creation of embryos solely for research purposes.

At the time, State Governor Ruth Ann Minner indicated that she would sign the bill if it was passed. But later, after the public hearings, Deborah Hudson agreed to amend the bill because Republican lawmakers had expressed concerns over the 11-member advisory committee that the bill would have created to monitor ES cell research in the state. The compromise position, however, means that ES cell research in Delaware is legal but unregulated and the bill will now return to the state Senate for further debate. Both Venables and Minner have said they are disappointed with the compromise version of the bill, But 'there's still room for some negotiations in trying to work between the House and Senate to return that bill to its original form', said Minner.

Meanwhile, a group in Missouri has been in court to defend the language used in a proposed constitutional ban on human cloning which would also allow ES cell research. Supporters of the constitutional amendment are trying to get a ban on human reproductive cloning - a measure known as the Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative - onto the state's November ballot. They are now seeking signatures on a petition that will allow them to do so, after a judge in Cole County upheld the language of the proposal. Opponents of the initiative argued that the title of the initiative and the language within it are 'misleading' and 'deceptive', as they fail to stipulate that a form of cloning - SCNT (somatic cell nuclear transfer)- would be used to produce embryos for ES cell research. But the judge said that 'the ballot title is sufficient and fair and the language is neutral'. Now the group must gather 145,000 signatures for the measure to qualify for a state-wide vote in November.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Delaware House Approves Compromise Bill Banning Human Cloning for Reproductive Purposes, Sale of Embryos
Kaiser Network |  20 January 2006
House OKs gutted version of stem-cell bill
Delaware online |  19 January 2006
House passes ban on cloning
newszap.com |  19 January 2006
Missouri judge upholds stem cell ballot measure
Associated Press |  19 January 2006
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