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Home arrow In Brief arrow Head of BioEthics InterGroup, MEP Peter Liese : "Embryonic stem cell research reaching its END" !?

Head of BioEthics InterGroup, MEP Peter Liese : "Embryonic stem cell research reaching its END" !?

Written by ACM
Thursday, 17 November 2011

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"Pioneers" of embryonic stem cell research halt clinical trials => Embryonic stem cell research has reached its end, says Peter Liese : Consequences for EU research policy = Focus should be laid on adult stem cell research" 


The US-company Geron has announced to halt its clinical trials with embryonic stem cells. The company has invested millions of dollars over the past years in this kind of research and started the first trial with human embryonic stem cells one year ago. They now announced to stop it and concentrate on their core business, which is cancer research. The announcement of the clinical trial last year had been celebrated as a big breakthrough in science, and the company has invested a lot to convince the US-authority FDA  to approve the trial. The official justification for the halt is that the company lacks money, but independent observers from all over the world see the decision as a prove for the thesis that embryonic stem cells are not the breakthrough- technology that is seemed to be."

- "After ten years of hype, the supporters of embryonic stem cell research finally have to face reality. If even the "pioneers" of embryonic stem cell research cannot generate funds for their trials, it is clear that the belief in this kind of research is gone", said Peter Liese, medical doctor and spokesman on health of the biggest political group in the European Parliament (EPP- Christian Democrats).

- "The latest development demands also consequences for the EU research policy. The halt of the clinical trial with embryonic stem cells has clearly shown that research on embryonic stem cells does not bring added value for the patients. We should therefore not finance it with European public money. Our effort should concentrate on ethically unchallenging alternatives like adult stem cells and stem cells from the umbilical cord. These alternatives have been successfully used in hundreds of clinical trials for more than 70 diseases".

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+ Also the decision of the European Court of Justice in October demands a policy change in Europe. The Court has decided that human embryonic stem cells can not be patented in Europe, and in the justification, the Court referred to human dignity. "If a technology cannot be patented in Europe, it makes no sense to support it with European money. The Commission in its research programs even demands scientists to patent their innovations. It is not useful to do research in Europe and leave the commercial exploitation to other parts of the world", said Liese.

Current drafts of the new Commission research and innovation program Horizon 2020 however indicate a different direction. The Commission obviously intents to finance not only research with human embryonic stem cells but also the derivation of the stem cells with includes the destruction of the embryo. Under the current 7th Research Framework Program research which implies the destruction of human embryos is not funded.

- "I'm confident that the new developments, including the Court case and the announcement of Geron, will convince the European Commission that the future lies in the alternatives and we should not waste European tax payer's money for a technology that is very much disputed, prohibited in some Member States and obviously not successful", Liese said.  

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Swedish Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, speaking  to "EuroFora", denied rumors on Turkey's attempts to avoid an EU check of its obligations on Cyprus on December 2009 by blackmailing Nicosia to either accept any deal with intransigeant Turkish claims contrary to EU values on the island's political issue, or face threats against the territorial integriy of the EU island, semi-occupied by Ankara's army.

On the contrary, the incoming EU President-in-office, speaking exclusively to "EuroFora", promissed that he will act for EU Council's decisions on December 2009 assessment of Turkey's commitments on Cyprus to be kept.


    Bildt was asked to react to Cyprus' President Christofias' denunciation, earlier this week, that some want to exert "pressure" on Cyprus in order for Turkey to escape from its obligations.

    Avoiding to mention any precise Deadline, Bildt, however, warned about "Consequences" in case of "failure" to reunite Cyprus, but without saying whose responsibility an eventual deadlock might be.  

 Asked by "EuroFora" if there is a risk for "Turkey's commitments to "be forgotten or downgraded", "despite crystal-clear EU Council decisions and EU Parliament's latest Resolution on the assessment to make at the end of this year on Turkey's obligations", according to rumours that, instead of pressing Turkey, on the contrary, there might be "pressure on Cyprus", even "blackmail", as Media reported and President Christofias denounced this week, Bildt denied :

- "No ! ", he clearly replied.


- On the contrary, invited by "EuroFora", to "reassure that the Swedish EU Presidency (7-12/2009) will keep a fair stance, based on principles",  Bildt promised that "we (Swedish EU Presidency) will be very clear on all of the decisions taken by the (EU) Council".

He added, however, that "we have very numerous decisions that have been taken" by EU Council, as if he warned, also, on something else.

- "'I am not aware of any sort of statements coming out today''", Bildt started to say, on our reference to Cyprus' President Christofias" denunciation of Turkish lobby's manoeuvers this week, replying earlier to 'another"EuroFora"'s question during a Press Conference at EU Parliament in Strasbourg.


 - '"I know the issues that you' are concerned with'", he added, remembering  the statements he gave us when Sweden was chairing the PanEuropean CoE on 2008.

- "But, obviously, .. I think that Cyprus' Peace negotiations are extremenly important".

- And "'I think that we are at a unique moment in History, in the sens that both (Cyprus') President Christofias and Mr. Talat (the Turkish Cypriot leader), are personally convinced of the need to overcome the division".

 - "It's 20 Years since the fall of Berlin Wal, but we still have a Capital in Europe (Nicosia) that's divided". ,

- 'I don't that we should loose any time in overcoming that"..

 - ''We should be aware of the fact that success will bring great benefits, but failure, will also have major consequences. There will not be Status Quo' " It's a question of seeking a solution, or entering another situation, which is somewhat difficult to see exactly how that could evolve", he warned.

- "That being said, this is a negotiation for Cyprus itself", Bildt admitted.

 - ''We (EU) can support, the (EU) Commission primarily, be technically helpful, and then, of course, there is a specific role for the UN, when it comes to the Cyprus' situation".  

- "At least so far. It might not be for ever'. Certainly not for ever, but for this period of time", Bildt added, skiping now any reference to concrete threats on UNO's Peace keeping force in face of more than 40.000 Ankara's soldiers, contrary to some Press claims, (See previous NewsReports).


     Replying to another "EuroFora"'s Question,  if anyone might attempt to "impose a Deadline for the conclusion" of Cyprus' Talks on December 2009, Bildt avoided to speak of any precise Time-frame, and indirectly evoked the fact that  35 Years of Turkish Invasion/Occupation obviously durated too long :

'- "If I was from Cyprus, I would say that the Deadline was Yesterday ! '",
Bildt concluded.

Cyprus' Government Spokesman, Stephanou, reportedly pointed out that "a settlement is possible on December if Turkey changes its stance", accepting a solution for the reunification of the island based on UNO resolutiona and EU principles.

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Earlier, EU Chair, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeld, highlighted an "historic opportunity" to "re-Unite" Cyprus according to EU's "basic Values"' (i.e. Human Rights) and 'Rules'", in a last-minute change of his draft speech to EU Parliament in Strasbourg.

    The initial Draft spoke only about "healing" the island.

    Significantly, Reinfeldt linked Cyprus' reunification with Turkey's obligations to respect EU's "Values" and "follow" EU's "common Rules" :

    - What is "called Membership Negotiations" should lead, "at- the end of the day", into "sharing a set of common Basic Values (i.e. Human Rights, Democracy, etc), and following common Rules", stressed Reinfeld from the outset.
    
    - "This is something that those on the Outside (of the EU), are now  contemplating", up "to Ankara", for "a solution" on "Cyprus", observed the EU Chairman, immediately afterwards..  

    - "Both sides of Cyprus have been granted a historic opportunity to together reach an agreement on a solution to re-Unite the island, that has been divided for far too long", said Reinfeldt, modifying his draft text.


-  "The Swedish Presidency will act ...in accordance with Commitments EU has made, on the basis of Criteria that apply", "as a Honest Broker", he promised.    

- "To those on the inside (of the EU), allowing the membership process to become an opportunity to solve protracted disputes, can be tempting", he added.


    "In such cases, we must find solutions that can benefit both sides, and open up a way forward. Otherwise, it would jeopardize the progress we have made towards EU integration", Reinfeldt said.

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