The Washington Post has been running a series of online discussions in question and answer format for a while now. The latest features Chris Mooney and is entitled "Is Politics Stifling One of the Most Promising Avenues of Aging-Related Research?" It focuses, as you might expect, on the California research initiative and stem cell research politics elsewhere in the US. Some quotes:
As bioethicists David Magnus and Arthur Caplan wrote recently in the San Jose Mercury News, "While it is hard to tell from the media coverage in the wake of the presidential election, the citizens of California brought the stem-cell debate to a screeching halt. There will now be ample public funding for that research."
In my view, thanks to what has happened in California, the debate in Washington hardly even matters any more. Unless, of course, Senator Sam Brownback's bill to ban all forms of cloning--including "therapeutic cloning" or cloned embryo research--somehow passes the Senate. Then we would have a federalism showdown pitting the feds versus the Golden State, which has green-lighted this work. And at that point there are all sorts of interesting legal possibilities in terms of who would win...but barring that, I think Washington has been largely superseded in this debate.
The attempt to use the United Nations as a backdoor means of banning "therapeutic" cloning, or cloning for research, has failed for two years in a row now. Each time, defenders of the research have rallied and prevented such a misguided action by the UN. I think the people who have been fighting this fight are extremely relieved, and they don't expect to have to go another round any time soon.
Rather than a global treaty calling for a ban on all forms of cloning, the UN will instead be adopting a "declaration" on this subject. It will be the product of negotiation and, therefore, will likely contain language that pleases everybody. So, in short, this is a huge victory for supporters of research.
I don't expect more significant action at the U.N. anytime soon, then. In Congress the big possibility, as I've said before, is that Senator Sam Brownback's bill to ban all forms of cloning--including for research--starts to move.
As Chris Mooney points out, the danger of a Federal ban on therapeutic cloning still exists. This technology is vital to the most promising research into regenerative medicine - attempts to ban it are just as damaging as attempts to ban or restrict embryonic stem cell research. If you would like to make a difference to the future of medicine, health and longevity, you should contact your elected representatives and make your opinions heard.