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Cloning Stem Cell Research Stem Cell Research

Editorial: 21st Century vs. Dark Ages

15 years, 9 months ago

1386  0
Posted on May 30, 2003, 12 p.m. By Bill Freeman

Capitol Times May 21, 2003 While legislators, academics and business leaders across the United States are working this spring to make their states the leaders in the emerging field of scientific study known as stem cell research, Wisconsin already is the leader. Because of the pioneering work of scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as the initiatives of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) and the WiCell initiative, it is Wisconsin to which scientists in other states and countries turn when they want to begin doing research on how to cure diseases, develop new treatments for the afflicted and responsibly advance the frontiers of research regarding human life.
Capitol Times
May 21, 2003

While legislators, academics and business leaders across the United States are working this spring to make their states the leaders in the emerging field of scientific study known as stem cell research, Wisconsin already is the leader. Because of the pioneering work of scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as the initiatives of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) and the WiCell initiative, it is Wisconsin to which scientists in other states and countries turn when they want to begin doing research on how to cure diseases, develop new treatments for the afflicted and responsibly advance the frontiers of research regarding human life.

So what are Wisconsin legislators doing to ensure that Wisconsin maintains its position of prominence in what analysts generally agree will be one of this era's most significant areas of scientific advancement? They are considering a proposal that would undermine, and perhaps even destroy, Wisconsin's ability to lead in stem cell research.

If passed, legislation written to bar ethical and legitimate forms of embryonic stem cell research under the guise of preventing human cell cloning would slow the search for cures to diseases that afflict millions of people in the United States and hundreds of millions around the world. That's the most significant reason why this legislation should be rejected.

But it is certainly not the only reason for Wisconsin legislators to oppose the proposal. They ought also to be concerned about the devastating blow it would deal to research programs at the UW and to Wisconsin's economy.

Addressing a legislative hearing on the proposed legislation Tuesday, WARF's Andy Cohn offered a stark, yet necessary, warning to legislators: "I would like to remind you that the consequence of this legislation would be that this research would go to another state and would flourish. Companies interested in this technology could not locate here, and suppliers to those businesses would not locate in Wisconsin."

It is notable that, against Cohn's explanation of why this legislation must be rejected, supporters of the bill could offer nothing more than ranting about evil science and warnings that the UW's internationally respected research initiatives are exploring dangerous and deadly ground that bears the fictional, but unmistakable footprint of Frankenstein.

The hearing did not feature a rational debate between supporters of stem cell research and foes. While the supporters came prepared for such a debate, the opponents could not find their way out of the distant and ignorant past in which they are mired.

All the same, the hearing was instructive. We now know that legislators face a simple choice between the science of the 21st century and the fears of the Dark Ages.

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