Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Non-viable policy choices

The Globe and Mail points out that while the U.S. has held a contentious stem-cell debate over the past few years, Canada has instead avoided any real discussion about changing antiquated guidelines which prevent research. And the result is that a new international research effort is completely ignoring Canada:
Scientists from South Korea, Britain and the United States are to announce in Seoul today the formation of a World Stem Cell Foundation. Its aim is to collect stem cells from cloned human embryos and sell them to researchers -- many of whom are banned from cloning in their own countries.

The project will rely on cells from patients in England, South Korea and California who agree to be cloned for research and on women willing to donate their eggs. Both are essential to the technique known as therapeutic cloning...

Because Canadian law prohibits the creation of human embryos for research, Dr. Rudnicki said it also prevents researchers from importing stem cells produced by methods considered criminal in Canada.

"This puts us in very isolated company internationally," Dr. Rudnicki said. He called for legislators to reopen the debate around Canada's stem-cell law -- which, alongside those of Italy and Germany, is one of the strictest in the world...

Dr. Leader, who is also chief of reproductive medicine at the University of Ottawa, noted that Canada's law, which is to be revisited in about three years, applies to both the public and private sectors.

Unlike Bushco, Canada doesn't even have the excuse of having a particularly strong religious right to appease. Instead, the lack of a policy allowing research based off of therapeutic cloning is the result of nothing more than government inaction. And the policy is far more restrictive than the U.S.', which merely bars public funding rather than private action.

Any government truly dedicated to encouraging research should have been well ahead of the game on this issue. The question now is whether any of the parties will step up and bring the issue to the forefront of public policy, rather than letting it go ignored for another three years while researchers are forced to take their efforts elsewhere.

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