Spanish scientists have launched a manifesto in support of stem-cell research that they hope will win international support.
The five-point Seville Declaration describes the discovery of stem cells as "one of the most important advances in biology and medicine of the 20th century" and calls for adequate funding for stem-cell research as well as the development of new cell lines that would be stored in cell banks open to the scientific community.
Researchers and scientific associations worldwide will be asked to sign the document.
The declaration was published on the same day the Spanish parliament voted to authorise stem-cell research. The law permits medical research with stem cells from embryos that have been stored for more than five years and therefore cannot be used for reproduction. The consent of the embryo's parents is required and therapeutic cloning is banned.
The move is a U-turn by Spain's rightwing government, which had repeatedly blocked attempts to reform the law. It is believed that a small group with strong Catholic beliefs within government was responsible for the delay.
Leading diabetes researcher Bernat Soria, director of the Bioengineering Institute at Miguel Hern ndez University, believes that the ethics of stem-cell research should be seen from a biological, not a religious, standpoint. "If you look at the biological facts, there is a broad consensus that a 14-day-old embryo is not a person," he said. "It should be up to parents to decide."
Professor Soria welcomed the new law, although he said he would have preferred a more permissive approach such as that of the UK. He was also concerned that the different laws being adopted across Europe would act as "a brake on European scientific development and the interaction between different groups".