Opponents, Supporters of Measure To Fund Stem Cell Research Debate Effects of Approval
Supporters of Proposition 71, a bond initiative on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot that will fund stem cell research, praised the initiative's approval, saying the measure will "create new collaborations to hasten treatments for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other diseases," while opponents said "public accountability" is necessary to ensure proper use of the funds, the San Mateo County Times reports (Simmers, San Mateo County Times, 11/4).
Under Proposition 71, the state will issue bonds to raise an average of $295 million annually over a decade to promote stem cell research and provide funds for a new stem cell research center, as well as grants and loans for laboratory projects. State analysts say the measure will cost a total of $6 billion, including interest. The measure passed by a vote of 59.1% to 40.9% (California Healthline, 11/4).
The measure's opponents also "question whether there really is a division between" academic and commercial scientists, saying that both groups see the potential benefits from Proposition 71 mainly in monetary rewards, according to the Times.
Marcy Darnovsky, associate executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society, said, "We support stem cell research but have concerns this measure is a giveaway to the stem cell industry," adding, "The backers want Californians to hand over the money, and then just trust them to do what's right. The stakes are too big for that."
Steven Burrill, a life science merchant banker and venture capitalist, called Tuesday "a big day for patients and Californians" and said Proposition 71 would "legitimize stem cell research." He added, "It's not like the checks are in the mail to the industry" (San Mateo County Times, 11/4).
Summaries of two editorials and an opinion piece addressing the passage of Proposition 71 appear below.
New York Times: Approval of Proposition 71 by California voters provides a "valuable service that should help keep this nation in the forefront of one of the most promising areas of biomedical research" and could be "the engine that keeps the nation moving" toward potential cures, a Times editorial states. But the "state-by-state approach" to funding, caused by President Bush's opposition to expanding federally funded stem cell research, is "not the way any rational nation should organize its support of scientific research," the editorial adds. Ideally, NIH would "award grants to the best scientists and research proposals wherever they might be," the editorial says. Nevertheless, the California program's managers will need to "take great care to prevent conflicts of interest, keep all proceedings as open as possible and ensure that the state receives a fair share of royalties and patent benefits" because the program is "largely insulated" from government control (New York Times, 11/5).
- Sonia Arrison, Orange County Register: California voters' approval of Proposition 71 was "disappointing" and shows "a dangerous blindness to economic reality," Arrison, director of technology studies at the Pacific Research Institute, writes in a Register opinion piece. However, the measure's passage was not "surprising," because "California sees itself as a leader in new technology" and many state residents believe that President Bush's "morally driven policies" were stifling innovation, Arrison continues. The outcome of the ballot measure reflects a "state that is pro-technology but could use some lessons in economics and political theory," Arrison concludes (Arrison, Orange County Register, 11/5).
- Wall Street Journal: California voters' decision to pass Proposition 71 will "hurt the state in the long run," and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) handled the issue like a "girlie-man" by viewing it as a cultural rather than an economic issue and trying not to "offend ... Hollywood and other liberal elites," the editorial states. California is the "last place that should be spending money it doesn't have," the editorial adds. The editorial also notes that voters in four states considered measures that would address rising medical malpractice costs, suggesting that Bush's re-election should "animate Congress to move ahead and break the Democratic filibuster strategy that has blocked it in the past" (Wall Street Journal, 11/5).
NPR's "Talk of the Nation/Science Friday" will include a discussion of Proposition 71. Guests on the program are scheduled to include Lawrence Goldstein, professor of cellular and molecular medicine at University of California-San Diego's Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (Flatow, "Talk of the Nation/Science Friday," NPR, 11/5). The complete segment will be available online in RealPlayer and Windows Media after the broadcast.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.