Stem Cell Politics in Florida
A group known as Floridians for Stem Cell Research and Cures is in the process of collecting signatures to put embryonic stem cell research on the November 7, 2006 ballot. The proposed measure would allocate $200 million
over the next ten years to researchers, largely in the form of grants.
Stem research in Florida has particular complications, as Governor Jeb Bush is President George W. Bush’s brother. President Bush put an end to federal funding on all but a few lines of embryonic stem cells in August of 2001. Wired News
reports that those lines are all contaminated with mouse cells.
The Florida group hopes to avoid the bureaucratic problems that have plagued the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). [See Blog Post on 9/16/05, Stem Cell Research in California, for more on the California issues.] Supporters also say the measure addresses ethical concerns. Wired News quoted Bernard Siegel, the co-director of Floridians for Stem Cell Research and Cures, as saying, "There are no hidden agendas with what we're trying to do, and we've set up proper ethical guidelines -- this really wears its ethics on its sleeve."The Fort Lauderdale Florida Sun-Sentinel
website provides a copy of the ballot initiative:Funding for Embryonic Stem Cell Research
This amendment appropriates $20 million annually for 10 fiscal years for grants by the Department of Health to Florida nonprofit institutions to conduct embryonic stem cell research using, or using derivatives of, human embryos that, before or after formation, have been donated to medicine under donor instructions forbidding intrauterine embryo transfer. An embryo is "donated to medicine" only if given without receipt of consideration other than cost of reimbursement and compensation for recovery of donated cells.
The measure was written by Harvard bioethicist Louis Guenin, who based it on a recent paper published in the journal Stem Cells.
One focus of the stem cell controversy is the new Scripps Florida Research Center
in Jupiter, Florida, which is celebrating its groundbreaking on Friday. The Sun-Sentinel article
quotes Bud Aaronson, the founder of the stem cell committee, as saying, “We're spending $800 million to bring science companies here. Why would we want to chase them away?" Aaronson is also a commissioner for Palm Beach County. In a related article on September 17 about the Palm Beach County Commission and its work on the Scripps center, the Boca Raton News
quoted a representative of Scripps as saying, “We’re not using embryonic stem cells, but we never say never. Obviously if science were to go in that direction, we could rethink that.”
According to the Boca Raton News, the Palm Beach Commission approved (with 6 of 7 commissioners agreeing to) a resolution that stated,• “We support embryonic stem cell research in the State of Florida.
• “We oppose any state of federal legislation or administrative action that would have the effect of slowing of banning research in this area.
• “We support state and federal funding that will enable embryonic stem cell research to move forward rapidly and ensure public access to such advances.”