Thursday, August 03, 2006

European Union rethinks Stem Cell Policy

President Bush has affected the thinking of European leaders for the good regarding Stem Cell research.

Though many Americans and Europeans disapprove of the President’s veto of a recent bill providing government funding for Embryonic stem cell research President Bush’s stance has caused European stem cell policy makers to place added protections into their own stem cell research policies which guarantees that no stem cells will be created for the sole purpose of being destroyed for experimentation.

As a result of President Bush’s influence Germany first pressed its EU partners to ban European funding for embryonic stem-cell research, a day after President Bush vetoed the bill that would have expanded such work in the United States.

European countries have widely differing national laws, with Britain actively encouraging stem-cell research. Germany, with an aversion to genetic experimentation rooted partly in the legacy of Nazi abuses, effectively bans it.
As well as Germany, other countries that have put down a reservation on the issue are Poland, Austria, Slovakia, Luxembourg, Malta and Slovenia.
However the E.U. did vote to fund stem cell with the following proviso;

In a draft ministerial decision proposed by Finland, which holds the 25-nation bloc's rotating presidency, would rule out EU funding for research on human reproductive cloning, genetic modification of human beings and artificial creation of human embryos solely for research purposes.
But it would allow funding for research on embryonic stem cells.
The EU ministers agreed not to fund activities that destroyed human embryos but said other research could continue.

European Commissioner for Science and Research Janez Potocnik said the EU would not finance the "procurement" of embryonic stem cells - a process which results in the death of the embryo - but it would finance the "subsequent steps" to make use of the cells.
"We must conserve human life from its conception. We want no financial incentives to kill embryos," German Research Minister Annette Schavan had told fellow ministers earlier in the day.

In practice, most European stem cell research is funded at national, rather than European level, and uses adult rather than embryonic stem cells the BBC news reports

We clarified what actually we do and we committed ourselves to continue in that direction also in the future Science and Research said Commissioner Janez Potocnik.

It must be noted that embryonic stem cell research is not banned in the United States any private company may fund and perform such test. The President’s veto only limits government funding of Embryonic Stem cell research the European Union continues to fund this research now with the stipulation that no embryonic cell shall be destroyed as a result of E.U. scientific research, thanks to President Bush.

The President cites moral reasons for his disapproval of government funding for research on embryonic stem cells but there is a more complex reason which is not often spoken of which is the government funding of research that will enviably become proprietorial.

In essence citizens will be double and triple billed for the medical advancements which results from researchers discoveries. How would that happen?

Take for instance the European Union which has approved Stem-cell research to receive only a small fraction of the EU science budget of some 51 billion euros ($64.3 billion) in 2007-13. That’s tax payers’ money!

Now if a European scientists (or U.S. Scientist) make a substantial and lucrative stem cell discovery he or she would simply patent any medical procedures or medicines discovered.

Meaning that tax payers pay for premium research and development (any private company would love that arrangement) and then the cost of procedures and medicines resulting from that work would be charged to the tax payer again as one goes in for treatment or as one would buy the medical products that resulted from stem cell research.

That’s not to mention all of the stem cell patents that are already in place which have to be considered before any new research can be done that might affect present owner’s patents.

The Geron Corporation, a biotechnology company that helped fund scientists in stem cell research, is now patenting the technologies.
BBC News, November 7, 1998

It doesn’t sound so bad but what if McDonalds was given government funding to run its operations and in addition to that it was able to keep all of the profits it made from hamburgers sells? That wouldn’t be very fair would it?

Or to put it another way, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned Americans in his Presidential farewell address of 1961, a speech in which President Eisenhower told about two impeding threats to America, one an industrial military complex and two a scientific technological elite.

Eisenhower warned of scientist who would seek government funding at the expense of free ideas, scientific discovery and intellectual curiosity to fund their projects. Also President Eisenhower warned of mixing Federal money and science. Last he warned of a scientific elite that would attempt to dominate social policy.

“Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.
In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.
Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.
The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.
Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientifictechnological elite.
It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system -- ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society. ” – Dwight D. Eisenhower , 1961

Although few will admit it and in President Eisenhower’s words President Bush’s veto was the act of a statesman, President Bush’s veto was an attempt to balance and integrate the forces of science with morality against the forces that only think about science for dollars.
The E.U.’s recent decision to follow the lead of the President validates President Bush’s leadership in this area. But you’ll never hear that said in the main stream media.

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