Brussels, 01 Apr 2005
A group of MEPs is hoping to change current practice on the funding of stem cell research at EU level.
A resolution on the matter was adopted by the European Parliament in March. While the primary focus of the resolution was the trading of human egg cells, MEPs also found it appropriate to include a statement on the funding of research.
The resolution states that research involving human embryos and human embryonic stem cells should be financed from the national budgets of those countries where such research is legal. This is a change to the Parliament's previous position, which accepted the funding of research involving stem cells at EU level, but blocked the creation of human embryos using the EU research budget.
'We are confident that the Commission will also change its position because the respective Commissioner Janez Potocnik, Vice-President Verheugen [...], as well as President Barroso have always underlined that they would like to cooperate with the European Parliament and listen to Parliament's voice, especially in this sensitive area,' reads a statement from the MEPs Peter Liese (Germany), Maria Martens (Netherlands) and Hiltrud Breyer (Germany).
The MEPs say that EU funding should instead be used for research into alternatives to human stem cells, which is less controversial.
The change in stance is the result of two developments, according to the MEPs' statement: enlargement and suspicions over planned egg cell trading within Europe. 'More than two thirds of the Polish MEPs, including the liberals, voted in favour of the respective amendments and the resolution,' says the statement. 'This clearly shows that enlargement changes the attitude of the European institutions concerning these sensitive issues.'
Concerns over egg cell trading relate to the UK and Romania. According to MEPs, the UK government has confirmed plans to allow Romanian women to donate their egg cells to help out UK fertility centres, which are experiencing a shortage of egg cells. Although the initiative was only authorised after the British Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority found no evidence of payments to the donors, the MEPs emphasise the risk to the health of those women donating egg cells. Media investigations have cast doubts on the claims of non-payment.