European Union Finalizes Budget on Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 30, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

European Union Finalizes Budget on Embryonic Stem Cell Research Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 30
, 2006

Brussels, Belgium ( — The parliament of the European Union has finalized its research and development budget, which will cover the next seven years. The budget contains a compromise that would make sure the EU does not directly pay for embryonic stem cell research but allows nations to fund it with their own money.

During the budget debate, a coalition of nations, led by Germany, had been working to block any funding for embryonic stem cell research and appeared likely to win a narrow vote.

However, Finland, which holds the EU presidency this year, proposed the compromise and Slovenia, one of the members of the German coalition, reversed its position and supported it. With the Slovenia position change, Germany announced it would back the compromise, provided that EU money not directly fund the destruction of human life.

The compromise means that some money from the EU’s $65 billion science budget will fund embryonic stem cell research over the 2007-2013 period that it covers.

But it also includes concessions to the nations opposed to embryonic stem cell research that the funding would not go to pay for destroying human embryos in new research. Instead, it would fund research on existing embryonic stem where the destruction of human life has already taken place.

The budget also does not fund human cloning for either research or reproductive purposes or the genetic modification of humans.

The EU issued a statement that obtained outlining these guidelines.

"No Community funding will be allowed for research aimed at human cloning for reproductive purposes or research intended to modify the genetic heritage of human beings. Nor will funds be available for research intended to create human embryos solely for the purposes of research or stem cell procurement, including by means of somatic cell nuclear transfer," the statement said.

"Research on the use of human stem cells, both adult and embryonic, may be financed, depending both on the nature of the scientific proposal and the legal framework of the Member State(s) involved," the statement added.

Ultimately, Poland, Austria, Malta, Slovakia and Lithuania voted against the compromise, but Germany, Slovenia and Italy joined with pro-embryonic stem cell research nations in supporting it.

Leaders from Britain, Portugal, Spain, Belgium and Sweden spoke in favor of funding new embryonic stem cell research with EU tax dollars.

In June, taxpayer funding for embryonic stem cell research from the European Union looked certain to happen after the EU parliament voted 284 to 249 for a budget containing it. However, a change made to the budget required extra votes and started with a meeting of national science ministers. They crafted the compromise and the budget moved forward.

The European Union budget for all science and technology projects is about $64.3 billion and funding for stem cell research is a small part of it.

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.