Embryo research in Parliament



Tuesday, 16 October 2012


Hints of a dress rehearsal for the presidential majority at the Senate.

Last night, the Senate examined the draft law submitted by the RDSE group (European Democratic and Social Rally, French: Rassemblement démocratique et social européen) concerning the authorisation to research on the embryo and on embryonic stem cells. The text, presented at 10:30 PM led only to a general discussion before the session was adjourned at 12:30 AM.

Appearances are deceptive: even though the debate appeared less lively than during the bioethics law of 2011, or even deliberately discreet, the militants on embryo research are not any less determined.

The government was represented by Genevieve Fioraso, the Minister of Higher Education and Research. She declared the undivided support of the presidential majority and of the government for authorising embryo research. The conferral of the Nobel Prize for Medicine to Professor Yamanaka a week earlier for his discovery of iPS (alternative to embryonic stem cells for modelling pathologies and to target molecules) does not shake this ideological position. She notes, without recognising the paradox that as soon as “serious” alternatives become more available, embryo research will become illegal again… This long-awaited future of research will remain an ideal solution, while awaiting something better.

But something better is already there: the reprogramming of somatic cells into stem cells was discovered five years ago. France, blinded by the fantasy of embryo research, has not taken this discovery into account.

The session of that night, like a dress rehearsal, opens up the possibility of a possible re-presentation of the text at the following session open for the RDSE on the next 13 December. The defenders of human lives, notably Bruno Retailleau, Charles Revet and Dominique de Legge, senators in the chamber, will be present.

The topic of embryo research remains in the program this week: the director of the Biomedicine Agency, Ms Prada-Bordenave, will be questioned tomorrow, Wednesday, 17 October by the OPECST [Office Parlementaire d’Evaluation des Choix Scientifiques et Technologiques – Parliamentary office for the evaluation of scientific and technological choices].

The Bioethical Law of 2011 highlighted the necessity of parliamentary control over the Biomedicine Agency, notably with two provisions (article 50):

  • Begin a public debate whenever the subjects of bioethics are raised, through public forums. The review on the sly at the Senate last night was not up to that standard.
  • The presentation by the Biomedicine Agency of a comparative review of the advances in worldwide research on stem cells. This report does not exist.-

Furthermore, the law states that “within a year of the publication of the current law, the Government submits a report to the Parliament on financial sources, especially public ones, and on the promotion of research in France on stem cells originating from adults and umbilical cords as well as from induced pluripotent stem cells [NOT from embryos]” (article 44). This report does not exist either.

What are the validity and legitimacy of debates whose aim is to revise the bioethical law of 2012 although the required reports have not been presented? The Jérôme Lejeune Foundation reminds us that these fundamental debates forces a choice on society, and should never remain confined to a clique of experts or political circles, but must be open to all citizens and exposed to the light of day.

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Press contact : Guenièvre Brandely – gbrandely@fondationlejeune.org