Brussels, 20 Nov 2003
A controversial vote in the European Parliament on whether the EU should fund research using tissue from human embryos has resulted in a victory for those in favour of allowing the practice.
Immediately prior to the vote on 19 November, the Parliament rapporteur Peter Liese MEP 'disassociated' himself from the final outcome, and urged fellow MEPs to vote against the proposals.
MEPs ultimately, rejected all amendments aimed at imposing stricter conditions on the use of embryonic stem cells so that the final vote on the Commission's original proposals was carried by 300 in favour to 210 against.
Indeed, one amendment adopted in plenary removes a key precautionary condition proposed by the Commission: that of a cut off date for the procurement of stem cells from supernumerary embryos.
However, MEPs did conclude that research using adult stem cells should be given priority for EU funding, and that research using newly acquired embryonic stem cells should only be funded if it can be demonstrated that other forms of stem cell are not suitable.
Finally, the Parliament requested that, in the interests of transparency, the Commission produces an annual list of projects funded under the EU research Framework Programme that employ the use of embryonic stem cells.
Afterwards, Mr Liese described the decision as a 'pyrrhic victory' for supporters of embryonic stem cell research: 'I am very disappointed about the result of the vote. [...] Neither the German government nor the other 'critical' governments can say 'yes' to this proposal. The EP [European Parliament] wasted its chance to give research a clear ethical framework.'
The final decision on whether the EU will fund such research rests with the Council of Ministers, who will try and reach a consensus during a meeting on 3 December.