EU to continue funding embryonic stem cell research
25 July 2006 00:00 in Industry related health news
European ministers in Brussels have agreed to continue funding for embryonic stem cell research.
A German-led coalition attempted to outlaw the funding one month after a narrow majority voted in the European parliament to allow continued funding for the research.
In a letter seen by the Reuters news agency, German research minister Annette Schavan said: "The European Union science programme should not be used to give financial incentives to kill embryos."
Countries including Poland and Austria backed the calls to prevent ?54 billion (?37 billion) of funding to be assigned to the research during 2007-13 as they believe that there are ethical barriers preventing it from being morally acceptable.
However, ministers have confirmed that the EU will continue to fund embryonic stem cell research, although it will not fund human cloning attempts or the procurement of embryonic stem cells.
Supporters argue that stem cell research is vital in tackling degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's as it works towards understanding how to regenerate diseased or damaged cells, tissues and organs.
The decision comes less than a week after US president George Bush issued a veto on the supreme court's decision to allow an expansion of federal funding for stem cell research.
Professor Austin Smith, director of the Institute of Stem Cell Research in Cambridge, England, told the Today programme that a ban similar to that in the US would hinder efforts in Europe to tackle degenerative diseases.
"It's not so much for people in the UK the amount of money, it's the ability to collaborate with very good groups in other countries in Europe," he said.
"This is clearly an issue where individual countries should be allowed to make their own policies and not impose their particular view. What they would be sending out is a very negative signal about science in Europe. And actually stepping back - holding back science."
Martin Rees, the president of the Royal Society said that had the ministers decided to block funding, the hopes of patients worldwide would have been dealt a "big blow".
"[It could] also encourage researchers to look outside the European Union to carry out important work on human embryonic stem cells," he added.© Adfero Ltd
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Story collated for Zenopa by the Adfero News Agency