Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Biotech Benefits from Obama

The DC Examiner identifies the real winners--and the double-standard--in Obama's lifting of the ban on government funding for embryo stem cell research:
The Biotechnology Industry Organization, which represents drugmakers and for-profit laboratories, quickly endorsed Obama’s new policy. “We fully support and are enthusiastic about President Obama’s decision to allow the National Institutes of Health to fund embryonic stem cell research,” said BIO President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Greenwood.

Financial headlines around the world indicated Greenwood and BIO’s member companies had reason to celebrate: “Industry set for stem cell profits”; “Stem cell buzz may help industry”; “Shares of Stem Cells [Inc.] rally on Obama’s news.”

Destroying human embryos to harvest stem cells has never been illegal in the United States, and many laboratories have been carrying out this sort of research for years, either with private money or with state taxpayer money. Obama’s decision gives these businesses — and any that now want to jump on the bandwagon — access to federal taxpayer money for their efforts to turn human embryos into profits.

Consider an analogy. What if President George W. Bush had announced he was lifting many restrictions on oil drilling on federal lands — on Alaska’s Northern Slope, in the Gulf of Mexico, in national parks and forests, and off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts? He might have trumpeted this as “depoliticizing drilling” and “restoring geology to its rightful place.” Imagine the outrage of environmentalists — and the catcalls from Democrats charging it was a gift to the oil industry.

One important difference between this imaginary Bush story and the real Obama story: It’s nascent human beings, not virgin tundra, being trampled by Obama’s policy.

Note that embryo stem cell research has not been illegal, only just not open for government funding. This work has been progressing all along during the Bush years. Just not at the expense of taxpayers, many of whom have ethical objections to such research.

On top of that, most of the breakthroughs in stem cell research have come about using adult stem cells, so there really is no need for this research anyway. This is a largely political move, motivated by the promise of lobbying dollars.

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