December 23, 2006

Scientists ≠ Morals?

Well, it looks like those rumblings of government interference in stem cell research have materialized in the form of this conservative-biased body, the AHRC agency.

Will we soon be teaching Creationism as a viable alternative to Evolution in elementary schools? Should the government be able to make moral decisions for academic and medical research? (Should it?? Where do we draw the line?) Stem cell research is going to happen, whether they like it or not, and Canada currently has an extensive body of collaborating scientists who are world-reknown for their work.

I definitely believe that regulations and restrictions need to be applied to stem cell research -- no human-something else chimeras, or factories for manufacturing embryos to obtain the stem cells, etc. but I hope this body does not suppress the progression of scientific knowledge.

Back in the 1970s when plasmid DNA and new molecular biology technologies were first being combined to genetically modify lower organisms, the entire scientific body briefly underwent a self-imposed moratorium on the use of bacteria in genetic research until they could hammer out rules that everyone would agree to follow to ensure the safety of the public and prevent malicious misuse. At the Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA Molecules in 1975, an outline was created by the scientists, and the guidelines were adopted and expanded by the NIH. These guidelines were then adopted by many countries and continue to be adapted to reflect the current issues of the day.

So back to the issue of stem cell research in Canada. Some people commenting on the article seem to think that scientists have no moral boundaries (although most are calling out for separation of religion and government, and for Steve-O to say sayonara). We already have a comprehensive bill (C-13), which is considered conservative in comparison to many other countries. What is going to happen to the future of stem cell research in Canada? We will have to wait and see....

BUT perhaps the presence of outspoken critics against abortion and stem cell research, and the lack of a stem cell expert on this advisory board is indicative of what kind of voice they will provide.... *ominous music*

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