EU Funding for Embryonic Stem Cell Research in Jeopardy With Second Vote

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 29, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

EU Funding for Embryonic Stem Cell Research in Jeopardy With Second Vote Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 29, 2006

Strasbourg, France ( — Taxpayer funding for embryonic stem cell research from the European Union looked certain to happen after the EU parliament voted 284 to 249 two weeks ago for a budget containing it. However, changes have been made to the budget and it may not get enough votes to pass a second required vote.

In addition to the parliament vote, the Framework Programme 7 (FP7) budget, which funds all EU science projects, must also be approved by the EU member states.

However, six nations appear likely to vote against the budget because of the embryonic stem cell research funding, including Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland and Slovakia.

Those nations, along with Italy, were responsible for delaying the FP 6 budget, which expires at the end of the year and placed most emphasis on funding in favor of adult stem cells. However, after elections there, Italy has withdrawn its support for blocking the FP 7 budget and embryonic stem cell funding.

Should enough nations disapprove of the budget, the Council of Ministers would be forced to overturn the EU parliament’s decision.

Christian Democrat MEP Peter Liese, a member of Germany’s Central Ethics Committee, predicts that the FP 7 will not get enough support and that the EU parliament will be unable to sustain its June 15 vote. That’s because the parliament needs a majority of the 732 votes to keep the FP 7 budget in place as written and it won’t be able to obtain the 366 votes needed to do that.

The initial vote for embryonic stem cell research represented "a bad day for the opponents of embryology," said Liese, "but the campaign goes on."

The EU has no policy on how it provides grants to scientists but a committee decides the research grants the science budget will fund on a case by case basis.

The 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. Under the last budget, eight embryonic stem cell research and over 100 adult stem cell research projects received financial support.

The overall budget spends $64.3 billion on various scientific projects and programs as well as health-related issues.