BioWorld International Correspondent

BORNHEIM, Germany - The majority of opinions delivered in Germany were against the British House of Commons' decision to allow therapeutic cloning of human embryonic cells.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schrvder, however, will keep discussions on embryonic stem cell research in his country open.

"Human life must not be abused for research issues," Health Minister Andrea Fischer said. And, Research Minister Edelgard Bulmahn said there is no cause to do research on embryonic stem cells since it could be done on adult stem cells as well.

Schrvder agreed to keep research on embryos forbidden in Germany, laid down by the Embryo Protection Act of 1990. "We should not loosen the ban on the use of embryonic stem cells until the potentials held out by alternative fields of research have been studied more closely," he wrote in the newspaper Die Woche.

But concerning the ban on embryonic research, he also said that this needs to be assessed just as much as the moral viability of legal regulations concerning medical practices in the field of human reproduction.

Schrvder, saying sanctity of human dignity is the definitive limit, also said that government is not responsible for answering moral questions. "This is a matter for society," he said. "Scientists need to lay open their aims and methods. They have an obligation to society to do so, particularly in those borderline areas to which genetic engineering has taken us."

2001 for Germany will be the "Year of bio-policy" as the newspaper Die Zeit headlined recently. Some issues ahead: Health Minister Andrea Fischer is preparing a law on reproduction medicine, the EU's directive on biotech patents still has to be established under German law, and insurance company's access to genetic data has to be defined legally.

The chances of gene technology have to be taken into consideration "without blinkers set by ideology," said Schrvder. "We want to bring human genome research in Germany up to a leading level internationally," he said, adding that the government recently provided an additional DM350 million (US$168 million) for this purpose.