8-Humans: Australia set to give green light for embryo research
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-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------
TITLE: Australia Set to Give Green Light to Embryo Research
DATE: Nov 10, 2002
------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------
Australia Set to Give Green Light to Embryo Research
CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia was expected this week to give the green
light to controversial research on human embryos but only after a marathon
debate in the national parliament and a barrage of attempted legislative
The lower house in September approved a bill to allow about 70,000 spare
embryos created for in-vitro fertility treatment to be used for stem cell
research after one of parliament's most heated, emotive debates of recent
The bill goes to the upper house Senate on Monday with the debate expected
to take all week followed by a rare conscience vote. A less controversial
bill banning human cloning was expected to pass the Senate unanimously.
Although opponents of embryonic research on Monday ramped up a last-minute
campaign to block the move, a survey conducted by The Australian newspaper
found at least 33 of the 76 senators would support the legislation with
just 19 opposing the bill.
The newspaper said 24 senators were yet to make up their minds or were
maintaining a public silence, although at least two of these -- left-
leaning Greens -- were almost certain to endorse the bill and thereby
ensure its passage.
"My feeling is that there will be (majority support)," Health Minister Kay
Patterson told reporters.
Advocates of the research believe embryonic stem cells could help find
cures for illnesses such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, as well as diabetes
But others argue that extracting the stem cells will kill the embryos, with
no proof that this line of research will produce the coveted results.
"No cures from embryo research can be anticipated in the next few years and
all such cures are merely speculative," argued one medical ethnical lobby
group, Do No Harm, in a statement.
The issue of embryonic stem cell research has become one of the most
emotive debates in Australia since parliament vetoed a state's euthanasia
laws in the mid-1990s.
The proposed Australian law is midway between the restrictive U.S.
approach, which limits stem cell research to cell lines from embryos that
have already been destroyed, and more liberal British laws that allow
embryos to be created for research.
Scientists, biotechnology firms and researchers threaten to take their work
and investment offshore if the bill fails.
In Australia, BresaGen Ltd is leading research on stem cells which can
transform into other types of human cell, offering the chance to regenerate
damaged organs or tissue.
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