Framework 6 research wins £10bn but with ethical strings attached

November 23, 2001

The European Parliament has agreed a budget of e16.2 billion (£10.1 billion) for the Sixth Framework Programme on research but is ringfencing the money so that it will not be spent on ethically controversial subjects.

MEPs have voted to prevent cash being spent on studies into human cloning, the creation of embryos for research (including somatic cell nuclear transfer) and the modification of human genes.

The framework programme is being discussed under the European Union co-decision procedure so the parliament can insist on its amendments being implemented and force an arbitration group to consider them if governments disagree. A conciliation committee is likely to be set up because MEPs also voted for the structure of the programme to be remoulded.

The amendments make the programme into one comprehensive scheme, divided into eight priority areas, each with its own budget and advisory group.

MEPs said they wanted more EU-funded research on traditional diseases instead of limiting work on life sciences to genomics and biotechnology.

The package now returns to the EU Council of Ministers for a second reading.

* Research ethics may soon have to be considered by Parliament in the wake of an EU directive on clinical trials.

Richard Nicholson, chairman of the association of research ethics committees, believes there is an unprecedented opportunity for the issue to be debated by MPs.

In the latest issue of the Bulletin of Medical Ethics , Dr Nicholson, who edits the journal, said issues such as the secrecy of ethics committees and the motivation for research could be considered.

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