Brussels, 22 Sep 2003
Ministers heard over lunch a presentation by Commissioner Philippe Busquin of the European Commission proposal on the EU-funding of human embryonic stem cell research. The Presidency reported to the Council in the afternoon.
The Council agreed to return to this issue at its meeting of November 2003 and to take a decision in the light of the European Parliament's opinion which is expected to be adopted at the November plenary session (17-20 November).
The Commission presented on 9 July 2003 a draft Decision stipulating that the funding provided by the 6th Research Framework Program for the derivation of new stem cells will only be made available if proposals successfully pass a rigorous scientific peer review and an ethical review. For this purpose, the draft Decision suggests the following criteria:
- The EU will not fund human embryonic stem cell research where it is forbidden by a Member State;
- Human embryonic stem cells can only be derived from supernumerary embryos that are donated for research by parents and that were created before June 2002, the date of the adoption of the Sixth Framework Programme. These embryos are destined to be destroyed at some point in time;
- Potential research project partners applying for European Union funding must seek ethical advice at national or local level in the Member States where the research will take place, even in countries where obtaining such ethical advice is not mandatory;
- Research will be funded only when it is demonstrated that it meets particularly important research objectives;
- Research will be funded only when there is no adequate alternative available. In particular, it must be demonstrated that one cannot use existing embryonic or adult stem cell lines;
- Supernumerary embryos will be used only if informed consent has been given by the donor(s);
- Embryo donor(s) will not be permitted to make any financial gain;
- Data and privacy protection of donors must be guaranteed;
- Tractability of stem cells will be required;
- Research consortia will be required to engage in making available new human embryonic stem cells to other researchers.