Vote Allows EU to Fund Some Stem-Cell Research

BRUSSELS, Belgium, NOV. 15, 2001 ( The European Union should be allowed to fund research into the use of human stem cells, but money should not go toward human cloning for reproductive purposes or the creation of embryos for research, the European Parliament said Wednesday.

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The parliament gave broad backing to European Commission proposals for the EU´s $15.4 billion 6th Framework research program, due to start in 2003, the Financial Times reported.

The parliament rejected attempts by some members, primarily Christian Democrats and Greens, to establish much more restrictive criteria for genomic research.

To be eligible for funds, the research must be carried out under the strict supervision of competent authorities, and must not be expressly prohibited by the legislation of member states, the parliament said. The latter is the case of France, Germany and Ireland.

The European Commission has singled out genomics and biotechnology as a priority for its 6th research program, because of their purported potential for providing cures for diseases such as Alzheimer´s and Parkinson´s.

However, the proposal coincides with a heated debate both within Europe and beyond about the ethical dimension of this type of research. U.S. President George W. Bush has already set out limits on federally funded research into stem cell lines.

The parliament called for more money to broaden scientific investigations into animal and plant genetics. Ministers are expected to adopt an initial position on the proposals next month.

In statements published by the Spanish newspaper «ABC» on Thursday, José María Gil-Robles, European deputy of the Popular Party and former president of the European Parliament, lamented the changes introduced in the Chamber because, «when the hand opens, especially for money, there is no telling what will happen.»

The Catholic Church supports research with stem cells taken from human beings, which is giving such promising results, but is opposed to the destruction of embryos to use their cells, because a human being cannot be turned into medication.

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