A row between the European Parliament and the European Union Council of Ministers, which represents member governments, is threatening delays in approval of key elements of the EU's €16.2 billion (£10.2 billion) 6th Framework Programme for research.
The dispute may mean that cash for the stem-cell research programme will be held back when the FP6 legislation is considered by the council at the end of the month.
It follows an agreement by the parliament's main political groups to oppose amendments pushed by German, Italian and Austrian MEPs that would have further restricted the range of stem-cell projects receiving EU funding. This agreement appeared to have removed the last obstacle to approval. FP6 is due to be launched in January 2003.
But the parliament's industry committee has said the council violated its rights by proposing, without consulting the parliament, a one-year embargo on funding for human embryonic stem cell and human embryo research and the establishment of a committee to decide on the ethical issues.