EU embryo research ban rejected
BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Moves to ban public funding for human embryo research have been rejected by the European Parliament, clearing the way for European Union plans to finance stem cell research.
The vote took place days after a U.S. firm announced it had cloned a human embryo, a move which was widely condemned around the world. The rejection of the report on Thursday does not mean the EU is backing human cloning, however, officials said.
The parliament, the elected assembly of the European Union, voted by an overwhelming majority to reject the report by Italian conservative Francesco Fiori which called for a ban on funding for embryo research.
The report, which was rejected following a heated debate, had been heavily amended.
Although non-binding on the EU, in its original form the document could have interfered with the EU's plans to spend 2.15 billion euros ($1.91 billion) over the next four years on health-related genetic research.
Around 300 million euros of this will go to research on aborted embryos and those left over from in-vitro fertilisation.
But the European Commission, the EU's executive, said the vote had not influenced its stance on genetic research.
"The Commission sticks to its line of only funding stem cell research that does not involve the creation of human embryos for research purposes," Commission spokeswoman Andrea Dahmen told Reuters. "The Commission is against human cloning."
The EU is planning to set aside a total of 17.5 billion euro ($15.38 billion) for research over the next four years.
The budget still has to be agreed by EU governments and return for a second reading in the European Parliament.
Genetic research will be the single most important item in the EU budget after funding for innovation and communications technology.
Supporters of embryo research say it has massive potential for curing diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Opponents argue it is an immoral exploitation of living human matter.
National government are free to spend their domestic research budgets as they see fit and would not be bound by the views of the European Parliament.
The private U.S. research company -- Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), based in Worcester, Massachusetts -- said on Sunday it had cloned embryos by removing the DNA from human egg cells.
The DNA from an adult human body cell was then implanted into the egg cell, which was then stimulated to grow into a six-cell embryo.
British genetics expert Dr. Patrick Dixon told the UK's Independent Television News: "The news is hugely significant because it shows that it's possible to take a cell from an adult, combine it with an egg and create an identical cloned embryo. If you implant it, you'll get a cloned baby."
"There are enormous ethical questions raised by this technology.
"Over 170 nations of the world have no legislation whatsoever preventing the birth of human clones. Sunday's announcement draws that step ever closer.
"We need global agreement and we need it urgently, or we will see clones born in many countries of the world."
The breakthrough was condemned by President George W. Bush.
"The president is 100 percent opposed to any cloning of human embryos," a White House aide told CNN.
The U.S. Congress has moved to outlaw all human cloning. A proposed new law is under consideration by the Senate.
The Vatican said the scientists had tampered with human life.
"Notwithstanding the humanistic intents... this calls for a calm but resolute appraisal which shows the moral gravity of this project and calls for unequivocal condemnation," the Vatican said in a statement.
UK set to ban human cloning
November 26, 2001
Doctor challenges UK cloning ban
November 5, 2001
Stem cell, cloning bills dropped
November 2, 2001
Cloning doesn't run a place in Australia
November 2, 2001
Elizabeth Cohen: Cloning humans vs. animals
August 15, 2001
Human Cloning Foundation
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