Beyond stem cells: Strong regulation and oversight of reproductive and genetic biotechnologies
The Center for Genetics and Society today welcomed the new federal funding policy for stem cell research announced by President Barack Obama, and called for Congress and the National Institutes of Health to heed his directive for "strict guidelines" that they "rigorously enforce."
"Ending the restrictions on federal funding for stem cell research is long overdue, and so is effective and accountable oversight of it," said Marcy Darnovsky, PhD, the Center's associate executive director. "The rules should be enforceable rather than voluntary guidelines, and should apply to all stem cell research whether it is publicly or privately funded."
Currently, stem cell research is not subject to federal regulations beyond those that apply to other biomedical research. Non-governmental bodies have established guidelines, but these are non-binding.
"The President's tone of cautious optimism stands in contrast to the exaggerated promises of some stem cell research advocates, who too often give the impression that cures are just around the corner," said CGS policy director Jesse Reynolds.
The Center also calls for Congress to act quickly on the President's warning that reproductive cloning is "dangerous" and "profoundly wrong," and to pass legislation prohibiting it.
"The United States is the only industrialized country that has failed to ban human reproductive cloning," Darnovsky noted. "Congress should remedy that, and also develop comprehensive oversight of human genetic and reproductive biotechnologies. Recent controversies involving the birth of IVF octuplets and offers for designer babies highlight America's unfortunate reputation as the Wild West of human biotechnology."
"We've seen what happens with inadequate regulation and oversight in the financial sector," Reynolds said. "The human biotechnology sector also needs effective public policy."
The Center for Genetics and Society has prepared a stem cell backgrounder [PDF] with brief answers to frequently asked questions about the science of stem cell research and the federal policies that apply to it.
The Center has also prepared a comprehensive set of recommendations [PDF] for the Obama administration addressing genetic, reproductive, and biomedical technologies.
The Center is a non-profit public affairs and policy advocacy organization working to encourage responsible uses and effective societal governance of human genetic and reproductive biotechnologies.