European Union Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding Faces Deletion

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 28, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

European Union Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding Faces Deletion Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 28, 2006

Brussels, Belgium ( — A handful of nations that have laws against funding embryonic stem cell research may have enough power to prevent the European Union from spending more money in future years on scientific projects using the cells that come from destroying human life.

Germany and Austria proposed banning any EU funding of embryonic stem cell research earlier this month at a meeting of science ministers from 25 nations in the coalition.

They may be successful in revoking EU funding from the latest budget, which covers the next six years.

They are joined by Italy, Poland, Malta and Slovakia and although they failed to get enough support for a ban, they could still prevent the funding by forming a "blocking minority." If successful, they could prevent enactment of all science funding in the EU’s Framework Programme 7 (FP7), covering 2007-2013, unless the ban is included.

The FP6 guidelines from the last budget gave preferential treatment to adult stem cell research but still funded embryonic stem cell studies as long as they were not conducted in nations with bans on such funding.

Antonia Mochan, spokeswoman for EU Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik, told The Scientist that Potocnik has suggested keeping the FP6 guidelines in place for FP7.

The six nations oppose the idea, 15 agree and four have taken no stance on it. However, no further money can be distributed until a majority of the 25 ministers approves the plan and the European Parliament signs off on it.

The minority group accepted Potocnik’s proposal last time around but may not be as likely to do so this time, The Scientist reports.

In an interview with The Scientist, Florian Frank, a spokesman for Germany’s new Minister of Education and Research, Annette Schavan, who strongly opposes human embryonic stem cell research, said his nation believes funding should not be given to any projects that are illegal in Germany. That’s even if the research is conducted in other nations.

Frank said Germany would lobby other nations to back its position, but would not say whether Germany would block the whole science funding package if more nations didn’t agree to ban embryonic stem cell research funding.

"This is politics. You try to convince the others," he said.

Under FP6, eight embryonic stem cell research and over 100 adult stem cell research projects received financial support, according to Mochan.

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.

The EU science budget allocates $88.4 billion for research.