The author of a Public Policy article in this week’s issue of THE LANCET discusses recent failures of international organisations to establish clear policies with regard to stem-cell research and reproductive cloning.
This will have implications for research scientists who will not be clear about the type of research programmes that could be publicly funded or that are legally permissible in the near future.
Carol A Tauer (Center for Bioethics, University of Minnesota, USA) outlines how late last year two international bodies were unable to resolve disagreements that involved bioethical issues.
First, the United Nations General Assembly failed to pass a treaty on reproductive cloning because of insistence by some countries that the treaty include a ban on cloning for research.
She argues that in view of the importance of enacting prohibition of reproductive cloning, the two issues should be separated and each argued on its own merits. Second, Dr Tauer discusses how the European Union (EU) failed to agree on conditions for funding stem-cell research because of the diversity of views and policies of the countries of the EU.
Because a stalemate was reached, funding decisions in the next programme cycle will be made on an ad hoc basis.
Dr Tauer comments: “A country or group of countries can legitimately not fund certain controversial types of scientific or biomedical research. But a decision is preferable to a stalemate.
Scientists who do not know what types of research proposals can be considered for funding are likely to shy away from a particular area of investigation. In this respect, the US rules, while restrictive, might have some advantages over the EU’s lack of agreement on rules.
If clear rules exist about what can and cannot be publicly funded then scientists can plan and seek private funding if necessary. The EU needs to break its stalemate and agree on funding policies, if not within the Sixth Framework Programme then at least by the time of the next programme cycle”.