European Union Can’t Agree on Embryonic Stem Cell Research Policy

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 14, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

European Union Can’t Agree on Embryonic Stem Cell Research Policy Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 14, 2006

Brussels, Belgium ( — With a diverse roster of countries coming from all sorts of viewpoints respecting the dignity and worth of human life, the European Union failed to come up with a common set of principles on embryonic stem cell research for member nations to adopt.

Officials said the failure on Monday to craft policies for all nations means decisions about allow or funding the grisly research will be left up to individual countries.

"We still think that adult stem cell research is preferable to embryonic stem cells, but we don’t have a qualified majority in favor of this," Elisabeth Gehrer, Austria’s minister for education, science and culture, told a news briefing, according to Reuters.

Gehrer, however, wasn’t speaking for every nation as some pro-life countries have not approved using taxpayer funds for the research, which isn’t anywhere close to being ready to help patients despite years of study.

Some nations such as Italy, Germany, Austria, Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Luxembourg, have laws opposing embryonic stem cell research or the funding of it.

Pro-life advocates point to adult stem cell research as a more ethical alternative because it doesn’t involve the destruction of human life. They also say it’s more effective since it has already yielded more than 80 treatments for various diseases and conditions.

An EU official told Reuters that 15 of the 25 countries that are a part of the collection of nations have said they want to continue examining embryonic stem cell research on a case by case basis.

"We know that there is not a single view about embryonic stem cell research in Europe," EU spokeswoman Antonia Mochan said last year when a debate over funding arose. "We have to be careful how we use the funds contributed by EU member states."

The European Union has set aside money in its budget to fund embryonic stem cell research projects and has already given taxpayer money to six projects.

Last year, the EU announced it would not increase funding for embryonic stem cell research with money appropriated from member states. Even though the European Commission’s research funding for the coming years was doubled, it would not commit more funds.

The EU science budget allocates $88.4 billion for research.