EU Proposes Rule Allowing Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 9, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

EU Proposes Rule Allowing Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding

by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 9, 2003

Brussels, Belgium ( — The European Union today put forward rules allowing the funding of some embryonic stem cell research.

Under the new policy, EU scientists would only receive funding from the EU if they use stored or frozen embryos left over from fertility treatment and created before June 27, 2002. That is the date when the EU agreed to its 2003-06 research program.

"By setting strict ethical rules … for such funding, the EU contributes in a responsible way to advancing this science for the benefit of patients across the world, while at the same time ensuring that it takes place within a clear ethical framework," EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin said in a statement.

A maximum of 2.2 billion euros is available in EU funds. Britain is the only country to craft laws specifically allowing embryonic stem cell research.

The decision could begin a rift between pro-funding countries and countries such as Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Malta, the Vatican, Italy and also Germany that oppose such destructive research.

Pro-life groups oppose such research because it involves the destruction of unborn humans. They support adult stem cell research which they say is more ethical and has been shown more effective in clinical trials.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), a British pro-life group, condemned the decision to allow funding for the destruction of so-called "spare embryos."

"The European Commission’s decision undermines the freedom of nations to defend the right to life, in particular the right to life of newly-conceived embryonic children, the smallest and most vulnerable members of the human race," SPUC political spokesman Anthony Ozimic said in a statement provided to

"Destructive research on human embryos is banned in a number of EU member states including Ireland, where such research is contrary to the Constitution’s protection of unborn children from conception onwards. This means that taxpayers in those member-states will be forced to pay the EU to undermine their own laws and fund unethical research in neighboring countries."

The Commission’s draft guidelines need the approval of the European Parliament and a majority of EU member states, whose research ministers will debate the proposal in November.

"Europe must reject this Commission proposal which seeks to fund research using unborn human beings, whether that is as frozen embryos or as aborted babies," Irish Member of the European Parliament Rosemary Scallon said in a statement.