EU Ministers Postpone Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding Decision

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 26, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

EU Ministers Postpone Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding Decision

by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 26, 2003

Brussels, Belgium ( — European Union ministers have postponed a decision on ratifying a vote of the EU parliament asking them to allow millions of dollars to be used to fund embryonic stem cell research that involves the destruction of human life.

A group of five European nations, including Germany, Italy, Portugal, Austria and Luxembourg, lobbied heavily to block the funding.

Germany has a policy in place to prohibit such funding. Should the EU decide to fund the controversial research, Germany, as the nation providing the most funds to the EU, would wind up backing a practice it has made illegal.

The EU ministers have decided to postpone the decision until December 3 to allow time for more discussions.

Last week, the EU parliament voted 298-241 to endorse funding and ask the ministers to approve it. If they approve funding, it will allow money from the EU’s $23.83 billion research budget for the period 2003-2006 to go to the research.

Ingo Friedrich, vice-President of the European Parliament, said that embryonic stem cell research was "ethically and morally unacceptable. It turns ideas of fundamental human values and rights to hollow words."

Irish MEP Dana Scallon agreed saying, "This will fund research using human life as though it were an instrument in a laboratory. We have only limited public money — it should not be diverted into a high risk area with no proven benefits."

German Christian Democrat deputy Peter Liese drafted a compromise to allow funding only of embryonic stem cells produced before June 2003 and stop funding of any new embryonic research. In Germany, only embryonic cells created before January 2002 are eligible for funding. The parliament rejected his proposal.

A moratorium that is currently in place regarding the funding expires at the end of the year.

Pro-life groups oppose embryonic stem cell research saying advances in science shouldn’t be made by destroying human life. They back the use of adult stem cells, which come from a larger number of sources and have been more successful in clinical trials.