Brussels, 05 Nov 2003
MEPs from the European Parliament's industry, external trade, research and energy (ITRE) committee have voted to allow EU funding for research using human embryonic stem cells under strict conditions.
In what was described as a 'highly charged and emotional vote', committee members approved the Commission proposal by 28 votes to 22. While a number of amendments were made to the original proposal, the majority of changes proposed by the committee rapporteur Peter Liese were rejected as being too strict.
After the vote, Mr Liese said that he would not resign the rapporteurship as some of his amendments had been approved, and that further discussion would be necessary before his report is voted on by the Parliament as a whole.
A key amendment was the removal of any cut off date for the procurement of human embryos to be used for stem cell research purposes. The Commission had proposed that only embryos created for IVF purposes and frozen before June 2002 could be used, the date of adoption of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).
The committee also felt that research using adult stem cells should be given priority for financing, and amended the proposal accordingly. Finally, MEPs called on the Commission to publish a yearly list of FP6 research projects that make use of embryonic stem cells, together with a justification of why other types of biological material were not usable.