Wednesday, November 23, 2011

No EU Funding on Research with Embryos and Embryonic Stem Cells

Brussels - Today MEPs from different political groups and different countries urged the European Commission not to finance research with embryos and embryonic stem cells under the new research framework program Horizon 2020. On November 30, the European Commission will present its proposal for the next research and innovation programme Horizon 2020. In the context of the EU research policy, research which includes human embryos and embryonic stem cells has always been a controversial issue.

Last week, the US-company Geron has announced to halt its clinical trials with embryonic stem cells. That clearly shows that research on embryonic stem cells does not bring added value for the patients. Also the decision of the European Court of Justice from October demands a policy change in Europe . The Court has decided that human embryonic stem cells can not be patented in Europe , and in the justification, the Court referred to human dignity.

"Bearing in mind our firm and longstanding commitment in favour of result-oriented and ethically sound research, in this new situation which we face today, I reiterate, European Union simply can't afford anymore to finance research requiring destruction of human embryos", said Miroslav Mikolášik (EPP), co-chair of the Bioethics Intergroup. "We have a European Court of Justice Decision in the Brüstle case and we have proof that existing clinical trials using human embryonic stem cells didn't lead to alleged revolutionary therapies. What more do we need to acknowledge that human embryonic stem cells research is not the right way?" he added.

According to the MEPs, EU funding efforts should now concentrate on ethically unchallenging alternatives like adult stem cells and stem cells from the umbilical cord. There are clinical trials with 73 diseases. Many of them are very successful. Margrete Auken (Greens/EFA): "Stem cell research is often described as a future cure for many serious diseases, which is why I'm happy to note the latest break-through in the production of stem cells from non-embryonic material. However, the risk that future stem cells can be used in unethical ways (for instance in the production of artificial germ cells) should be carefully monitored." 
According to a current legal advice by distinguished lawyers, EU funding of scientific research with human embryonic stem cells would be legally contestable. Considering the reasoning in the Brüstle-case it seems to be likely that the court will declare legal acts providing for the promotion stem cell research to be void.  Peter Liese (EPP) added: "It is not reasonable to part at risk a program of 80 billion Euros. The European Commission should therefore exclude research on human embryos and human embryonic stem cells of the EU funding."

"National Parliaments discussed this sensitive issue carefully and many came to the conclusion that research with human embryos and human embryonic stem cells needs to be prohibit or limited. It's the wrong interpretation of subsidiarity if the Commission will finance these technologies" Gerald Häfner (Greens/EFA) said.

Konrad Szymanski (ECR): "Spending the EU tax-payers' money for research, which is outlawed even in one  Member   State , hits the trust of millions of Europeans towards the European integration."

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