Proposed Council Decision on "Integrating and strengthening the European research area" (2002-2006)

July 14, 2003

Brussels, 11 Jul 2003

Proposal for a
COUNCIL DECISION
amending decision 2002/834/EC on the specific programme for research, technological development and demonstration: "Integrating and strengthening the European research area" (2002-2006)
Full Text

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

Introduction

There is strong scientific interest world-wide in stem cell research. Although much basic and preliminary research is still needed, the investigation of stem cells has the potential to contribute greatly to a better understanding of the development of human life. Scientists are hopeful that stem cell research will provide essential progress in the development of therapies in several fields of medicine. This is particularly the case for the treatment of various degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's but also for more common diseases like diabetes.

Stem cell research raises ethical questions, particularly when it involves the use of embryonic stem cells derived from human supernumerary embryos. At the same time, the suffering of so many patients who currently have no hope of an adequate cure, imposes an ethical duty to advance research.

Obviously, research involving the use of a human embryo can only take place within a framework of strict ethical conditions and safeguards.

Taking full account of the opinions of the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies, the European Commission is now proposing a coherent set of strict ethical guidelines for deciding on and for monitoring the community funding of research involving the derivation of embryonic stem cells from human supernumerary embryos. Funding for this research is included in the scope of the sixth framework programme of the European Community for research, technological development and demonstration activities (2002 ­ 2006), as adopted by the European Parliament and the Council1.

With the present proposal, the Commission responds to a question that was left open in the decision-making process on the specific programme of the sixth framework programme for research, namely under what conditions community funding can be made available for projects involving such research.

The specific programme for research, technological development and demonstration: "Integrating and strengthening the European Research Area" (2002-2006) (Decision 2002/834/EC )2 (hereinafter referred to as "the specific programme"), adopted by Council on 30 September 2002, allows the funding of research activities involving the use of human embryos and human embryonic stem cells except in three areas:

­ research activity aiming at human cloning for reproductive purposes (reproductive cloning),

­ research activity intended to modify the genetic heritage of human beings which could make such changes heritable (germline gene therapy)3,

­ research activities intended to create human embryos solely for the purpose of research or for the purpose of stem cell procurement, including by means of somatic cell nuclear transfer (commonly referred to as therapeutic cloning).

[...]

Brussels, 9.7.2003 COM (2003) 390 final 2003/0151 (CNS)

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