BioWorld International Correspondent
BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Parliament came out strongly in favor of strict ethical standards for the transplantation of cells and tissues when it debated new European Union draft rules at its plenary session in Strasbourg, France, on Friday. Above all, the Parliament emphasized by a large majority that it was against any form of cloning.
The new rules, proposed last year, aim to establish EU-wide controls on most aspects of tissue and cell donation and use (although not donation of whole organs). But the Parliament said last week the controls were not strict enough. The Parliament is not against therapy and research with cells and tissues; the resolution voted through accepts that this new area of science holds out major potential for health and for economic development. But it was insistent that fundamental ethical requirements must be specified - going way beyond the initial legislative proposal.
Within the European Union, cloning should be forbidden for any purpose, the Parliament said. That position is much more extreme than earlier positions taken by the Parliament, and goes further than the compromise agreed to last year under which EU research funding was not to be given for cloning. Now the Parliament wants a prohibition by law in all EU countries. And the Parliament failed by only one vote in an attempt to ban all research using supernumerary embryos.
Some of the controls the Parliament wishes to see relate to donations are that they should always be voluntary and unpaid, it said (although it accepted that individuals may be compensated for costs incurred in making donations), and that there should be no trade in donated cells and tissues. Only when cells are modified is it legitimate for trade and remuneration, it said. "If the industry adheres to standards, its commitment is welcome, since it contributes to the innovation," according to the Parliament.
Peter Liese, the German physician who piloted the legislation through the Parliament, said after the vote, "I am very content with the outcome of the vote today. We made it clear that we support research and therapy with cells and tissues but that ethical borders are indispensable."
Now the debate goes back to EU member state ministers, who are scheduled to look at the question on June 2. But many EU officials have already voiced their concern over the radical nature of the Parliament's requests for amendments. European Commission spokesmen in the debate said the type of prohibitions that the Parliament wants are simply unconstitutional in the EU.