26 nov. 2013

EU fortsätter stödja forskning på embryonala stamceller

Den 21:a november, efter månader av långdragna förhandlingar, antog Europaparlamentet till slut Horizon 2020, EU:s nya ramprogram för forskning och innovation för 2014-2020. En av stötestenarna var om EU skulle fortsätta att stödja forskning på embryonala stamceller (hESC) eller upphöra med det på grund av etiska betänkligheter. I det nya ramprogrammet ges fortsatt stöd till denna viktiga forskning, något European Humanist Federation (EHF) arbetat hårt för. EHF skriver mer om detta.

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Status quo on hESC research

Despite a strong lobbying from several religious organisations spreading misleading information, the European Parliament decided to keep on with the existing ethical framework. Concretely, this status quo means that only few research activities involving human embryonic stem cells will be eligible for EU funding:

  • No research activity will be funded with EU money in a Member State where this research is forbidden. The principle of subsidiarity is therefore fully respected contrary to what many religious organisations have claimed
  • No EU funding will be granted for research activity aiming at human cloning for reproductive purposes and for research activity intended to modify the genetic heritage of human beings which could make such changes heritable. This is of course an important ethical safeguard.
  • No EU funding will be granted for research scientific activities intended to create human embryos solely for the purpose of research. Like before, researchers will have to use existing stem cells derived from ‘spare’ embryos created for in vitrofertilization and not be needed anymore for the purposes of reproduction.
  • No EU funding will be granted for research activities which destroy human embryos, including for the procurement of stem cells. In clear, the EU will not fund the creation of new hESC lines since the process involves the destruction of human embryos. This was clearly requested by EU Member States with strong religious constituency.

=> This somewhat hypocritical compromise means that EU funding can only be granted for research on existing hECS but cannot be used to create ones.

During the vote of 21 November, the most conservative voices requesting the protection of the “physical integrity” and “dignity” of the human embryo were thankfully ignored by the vast majority of MEPs (533 votes to 29, with 22 abstentions). However, the EHF regrets that the European Parliament did not stand firmer in favour of freedom of research and scientific innovationdespite calls from several MEPs. Together with many scientists and researchers, the EHF has indeed repeatedly denounced the restrictiveness and the incoherence of the existing European rules which are the result of a weak compromise reached in 2006 to satisfy researchers but also conservative countries and religious representatives.

Beyond Horizon 2020 : the growing anti-choice opposition

What is important to recall is that this continuous lobbying against hESC research is part of a broader and growing anti-choice opposition (including within European institutions) demanding legal protection of the human embryo in Europeand trying to impose its views on several societal issues like research but also women’s sexual and reproductive rights. Last examples of it are the recent blocking of the progressive Estrela report on sexual and reproductive health and rights in the European Parliament and the successful European petition “One of us” initiated and conducted by highly conservative catholic organisations. The initiators of the petition have just instructed their Executive Committee to develop a charter to serve as a starting point for the launching of a European Federation to defend “life” and the human embryo before the European institutions.

The EHF and its partner organisations will remain mobilized to oppose this conservative move and make sure that EU decision makers, when adopting decisions which apply to all of us, make the choice of reason, human rights and progress.

European Humanist Federation

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