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Volume 71, Issue 154, Thursday, July 27, 2006


EU takes lead for science's sake

Christian Palmer
Opinion Columnist 

Earlier this week, the European Union decided to pick up the research-funding slack that the United States undoubtedly will leave after the House of Representatives failed to overturn President Bush's first veto on a stem cell research bill. The historic action and the following failure to correct it leaves us looking backward and not conducting research with bakers' dozens of tantalizing embryos, most of which are probably doomed anyway. It's like watching perfectly good ice cream melt on a hot, humid day.

"Symbolically, it is very significant," said Lord Sainsbury, Britain's science minister. "In Europe we are moving forward on this front, whereas America has taken, as far as the federal government is concerned, a very negative position."

To no one's surprise, polls indicate that the majority of Americans disagree with this action. However, more surprisingly, the opposition includes senators John McCain of Arizona and Tennessee's Bill Frist, who said, "Given the potential of this research and the limitations of the existing lines eligible for federally funded research, I think additional lines should be made available," letting the heart surgeon in him make a rare appearance.

This funding, adds Sainsbury, could help to lure research scientists from America to countries that make up the European Union as this recent bipartisan legislation has people from all through the scientific community generally upset and without necessary resources. If there were a great influx of intellectual might into Europe, maybe everyone could work together and do experiments in peace and harmony, but no one really wants that.

But more likely, Europe would simply gain the lead in the perpetual competition to save the human race, leaving America in the dust.

In an attempt to save face, and apparently with genuine concern, Bush expressed dissatisfaction with Congress, who failed to pass a bill with regard to adult stem cell research -- an ethical avenue to obtaining data and possible disease cures. The difference here is that no embryos would be cast under the microscope and sent to a premature death. Instead, adults would be able give up certain tissues, including bone marrow, the donation of which is said to be a very painful procedure. But any progress is good progress.

If there is an alternate route to acquiring stem cells for research, we should be talking about it. It isn't necessary to ruffle feathers that needn't be ruffled in order to gain certain support, monetary or otherwise, by causing a fuss on the world stage and fundamentally dividing people. 

But that, unfortunately, is how we roll.

Palmer, an opinion columnist for The Daily Cougar, 
can be reached at

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