Scientific Panel Debates Issues Surrounding Stem Cell Research
A panel of scientists on Wednesday discussed Proposition 71, a measure on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot that would issue state bonds to raise an average of $295 million annually over a decade to promote stem cell research, the Sacramento Bee reports (Whitney, Sacramento Bee, 9/30).
The measure would provide funds for a new stem cell research center at a University of California campus, as well as grants and loans for laboratory projects at other colleges. State analysts say the measure would cost a total of $6 billion, including interest (California Healthline, 9/24).
Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento), who supports the initiative, said passing it could make the state a world leader in stem cell research. "This gives preference to embryonic stem cells. California is doing something unprecedented for scientific research," she said.
However, William Hurlbut, consulting professor to Stanford University's human biology program, said embryonic stem cell research could lead to state-authorized embryonic cloning. "I'm not making this up," he said, adding, "It is disingenuous to obfuscate the purpose of this proposition."
Ortiz said that human cloning is banned in California (Sacramento Bee, 9/30).
In related news, an official for Massachusetts-based Advanced Cell Technology, which conducts embryonic stem cell research, on Wednesday said that the company plans to open a laboratory in California because of state support for such research, the Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times reports.
Robert Lanza, vice president of medical and scientific development at Advanced Cell, said that approval of Proposition 71 could result in a "massive movement west." According to Bloomberg/Times, Lanza declined to provide additional details about the company's planned facility.
Advanced Cell was the first company to clone a human embryo, Bloomberg/Times reports (Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times, 9/30).
The Sacramento Bee on Wednesday analyzed a television advertisement by the "Yes on 71" campaign. In the ad, which features Paul Berg, a professor of cancer research and Nobel Prize winner, the campaign is "highlighting endorsements" from 23 winners of the Nobel Prize, according to the Bee. The ad is one of four, 30-second ads that Yes on 71 plans to run through Nov. 2 (Mecoy, Sacramento Bee, 9/29).
Summaries of editorials and opinion pieces addressing Proposition 71 appear below.
Investor's Business Daily: By "blaming [President] Bush for supposedly standing in the way of miracle cures," Democrats "feed the stem cell hype by encouraging people to think the science is much farther along that it actually is," an Investor's Business Daily editorial states. "Through the lens of fiscal and moral prudence, [Proposition 71] looks premature at best," the editorial concludes (Investor's Business Daily, 9/28).
- Greg Johnson, Los Angeles Times: Because polls have found that "many Californians already have made up their minds that stem cell research is a positive step," opponents of Proposition 71 "have made the strategic decision that they can win only by appealing to voters' pocketbooks," editorial writer Johnson states in a Times opinion piece. According to Johnson, "Arguing against Proposition 71 on its costs seems akin to opposing capital punishment on the grounds that a state can't afford the electricity bills" (Johnson, Los Angeles Times, 9/29).
San Francisco Chronicle: The "potential breakthroughs in treatments and possible cures for more than 70 diseases" are "worth the risk" of approving Proposition 71, a Chronicle editorial states, adding that the initiative "offers a chance for California to be a global center for stem cell research." According to the editorial, approving Proposition 71 is "a big leap of faith, but a justified one for a state that has often led the nation in technological and medical exploration" (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/30).
- Robert Lawton, San Jose Mercury News: Among other questions, "one needs to ask if [Proposition 71] is the best way to spend what will amount to $6 billion," Lawton, president of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, writes in a Mercury News opinion piece. According to Lawton, private companies have not taken advantage of a 2002 law signed by former Gov. Gray Davis (D) that provides some state funds for stem cell research because "it is not clear medically whether such research will in fact benefit patients" (Lawton, San Jose Mercury News, 9/29).
Additional information on Proposition 71 is available online. 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.