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Stem cell research may soon make headlines again. The restrictions on federal funding imposed by former President George W. Bush are expected to be lifted. But here in New York, a different type of stem cell controversy is brewing.

Since 2007, the state has managed a large stem cell research funding program of its own, second only to that of California. While it has quietly been issuing millions of dollars in grants for a wide range of work, the program is considering crossing an unprecedented - and dangerous - ethical line.

Most of the debates around stem cell research have focused on the use of embryos left over in fertility clinics. Hopeful parents undergoing assisted reproduction often end up with more embryos than they need, and these could be used in medical research. Bush's policy limited federal funding for this line of work; President Barack Obama is expected to lift that restriction very soon.

The issue in New York is different. If stem cells could be derived from embryos made using cloning techniques, they would have all the genes of...