Final spurt

A new key date regulation in the stem cell law would be wrong according to the president of the Committee of German Catholics, Hans-Joachim Meyer. "In principle, we are convinced that any consumption of human embryos for research purposes violates the protection of human life," Meyer told the Hanover-based Neue Presse newspaper (Tuesday edition). Even setting the current deadline was an "ethical compromise" he said. "If this deadline were to be postponed, there would be a danger that embryos would be created and consumed specifically for research purposes," Meyer said.

Moreover, it would be tempting to "soon demand a new postponement of the deadline," said the president of the Committee of German Catholics. This, however, could pierce the protection of embryos and, consequently, the protection of human life "to the point of ineffectiveness. But the protection of human life must remain the highest principle of humanity. "If this principle is abandoned for a purpose, then serious consequences must be feared," Meyer emphasized.

No basic research without a new deadline?

The Parliamentary State Secretary in the Research Ministry, Thomas Rachel (CDU), sees an urgent need to postpone the deadline for research with embryonic stem cells. "Basic research should remain possible in Germany", Rachel told the "Passauer Neue Presse". Science points out that the stem cell lines available so far are not sufficient for internationally comparable and cooperative research. Therefore, he pleads "for the postponement of the cut-off date to 1 January 2009. May 2007".The decisive factor, however, is "that we stick to the basic principles of the compromise reached in 2002: An incentive to produce new stem cell lines from embryos abroad should be ruled out," Rachel said. He emphasized: "This does not touch a single embryo.

"Three cross-party motions

The Bundestag will discuss the stem cell law in its first reading on Thursday. In addition to the demand for abolition of the cut-off date regulation, which more than 90 MPs have signed, there are three other cross-faction motions. More than 100 deputies from all parliamentary groups want the current stem cell law to be retained with a cut-off date of 1. January 2002.Furthermore, there is a cross-factional group motion to postpone the cut-off date to 1. May 2007. A fourth motion calls for a ban on all research with embryonic stem cells.

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