Brussels, 01 Sep 2004
Europeans are not the only ones struggling to reach a consensus on whether or not public money should be used to support stem cell research. A recent poll in the US on whether federal funding should be used for embryonic stem cell research found a near equal split in public opinion.
Asked 'Do you support or oppose federal funding for embryonic stem cell research?', 43 per cent declared themselves in favour of such a policy, while 47 per cent said that they would oppose it. The poll was conducted via telephone interviews with 1,001 American adults over five days in August of this year.
Embryonic stem cell research would involve the use of embryos left over from in vitro fertilisation, which are habitually destroyed. Some scientists believe that such research could eventually lead to treatments for several diseases, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. However, three years ago US President George W. Bush cited 'ethical questions' as he introduced a ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
The issue has become a contentious one in the US, with well-known Americans speaking out both in favour of and against the research, while Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry has pledged to lift existing restrictions should he be elected as president.
The issue is currently particularly contentious in California, where voters will decide whether or not a three billion USD (2.5 billion euro) embryonic stem cell research programme should go ahead on the same date that they vote for a new US president in November. A number of well-known people, including Bill Gates, other Silicon Valley tycoons, Nobel laureates and Hollywood celebrities are backing the measure and have donated huge amounts of money to the 'yes' campaign. Opponents are also planning a highly visible campaign.