Since the beginning of 2001, a temporary committee at the European Parliament has been considering the issue of human genetics and other new technologies of modern medicine. Although the committee considered many different issues, it is that of cloning and stem cell research which seems to have been most controversial. But what looked initially like a reasonable - if rather conservative - response to cloning and stem cell research, quickly became a 'ban everything' tract by parliamentary sleight of hand.
In the draft report of the temporary committee, called the Fiori Report, it was recommended that the priority for European Union funding should be adult stem cell research. Where research using human embryos is carried out, it was recommended that embryos should not be created specifically for research, but used only if they are donated by IVF patients who no longer wanted them for their own treatment.
But in between the draft Fiori Report and its final version, a grand total of 550 amendments were tabled. Those that were adopted changed the report from a cautious one to one which is downright hostile to all forms of cloning and embryo stem cell research. In the final report, for instance, not only is there to be no EU funding for projects involving embryos created for research, but also for 'any other forms of consumptive research on human embryos'. The final report also argues that no distinction between the techniques of reproductive cloning and therapeutic cloning can be made and that the only way to stop reproductive cloning is to stop therapeutic cloning (the creation of cloned embryos for research) too.
This result of this ambush on the report is that the committee's deliberations, which took place after months of evidence gathering and careful thought, have been hijacked by those who have had nothing to do with that process of deliberation. Although an adoption of the amended report in the European Parliament would only be declaratory, it would send out a message that Europe is against embryo stem cell research, even though it is not. A number of member states either currently allow embryo stem cell research, or are planning to change their legislation to allow it.
At the time of writing, it has emerged that the European Parliament has voted on a proposal to delay a vote on the Fiori Report until after a vote on the EU 6th Framework (Funding) Programme for Research and Development, which will consider - amongst other matters - funding for embryo stem cell research. The vote on the Fiori Report will now take place at the end of November. If you live in a European member state and would like to lobby your MEP on this issue, you can find a full list of MEPs and their contact details at http://www.europarl.eu.int. EMBED(52708)}