European Union Ministers Oppose Bid to Fund Embryonic Stem Cells

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 3, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

European Union Ministers Oppose Bid to Fund Embryonic Stem Cells

by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 3, 2003

Brussels, Belgium ( — In a victory for pro-life advocates and countries that oppose destructive embryonic stem cell research, European Union ministers on Wednesday failed to reach an agreement that would allow EU funding of the grisly practice.

Italian Research Minister Letizia Moratti dissolved a meeting of the ministers after a compromise agreement failed to garner enough support.

A moratorium on any funding of embryonic stem cell research ends this year and the EU parliament voted 298-241 in late November to endorse funding and ask the ministers to approve it.

Had the ministers approved the funding, it would have allowed money from the EU’s $23.83 billion research budget for the period 2003-2006 to go to the research.

As a result of the failed agreement, proposals for funding will have to be dealt with on a case by case basis once the moratorium ends.

A group of five European nations, including Germany, Italy, Portugal, Austria and Luxembourg, have been lobbying heavily to block the funding. German officials led the opposition to the agreement.

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.

EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin called the failure to reach a deal "very unfortunate.” Busquin said he already had applications for grants and "the Commission will try to deal with them wisely.”

Portugal also opposed the funding of embryonic stem cells but put forward an alternative that would have allowing funding only of existing cells in order to prohibit more human embryos from being destroyed.

Other countries, such as Britain, Greece, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands, were against setting a cut off date saying it would hurt 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."

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.