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Monday, 24 July 2006 10:58
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Plea over stem cell research funds
European ministers that are meeting in Brussels were urged not to follow in the footsteps of the United States by banning funding for research into human embryonic stem cells.

Last week the American President George W Bush used his veto for the first time to limit federal funding for the research. He is against the use of public funds for research which destroys embryos.

There are now fears that European backing for ESC research could be halted by a minority of European Union states.

Germany, Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland, Malta, Luxembourg, Austria and Lithuania are opposed to the continuation of central European funding for research on surplus embryos from fertility treatment.

Under existing rules, they need 90 votes to block support for ESC research from the European Framework Programme of funding. Between them, adding together the votes allocated to each country, they can muster 91. Such a dispute could seriously delay approval of the funding programme for all areas of science, worth 54 billion euros (£37 billion).

Lord Rees, president of the Royal Society, Britain's leading academic institution, stepped into the controversy with a strong plea to save European-funded stem cell research.

In a letter to Science Minister Lord Sainsbury, who will represent the UK at the meeting, he wrote: "Last week the United States decided to stay in the slow lane on stem cell research, hindering the global race to develop therapies that could benefit millions of people. It now appears that some countries wish to force the European Union as well into the slow lane alongside the United States.

"While a ban on the use of European Framework support would not prevent national funding for this research, it would still deliver another big blow to the hopes of patients worldwide. It may also encourage researchers to look outside the European Union to carry out important work on human embryonic stem cells”.


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