California ahead of the curve on stem cell research

California voters two years ago approved the idea of the state supporting stem cell research–though federal legal wrangles have been holding things up. Now a couple of philanthropists have given the University of Southern California $25 million to build a stem cell center.

Federal law authorizes states to do what they want with stem cell research (you can read all about the NIH’s position on this issue in their FAQs here)–unless it decides to issue a ban on what they decide.

So with this separation of powers, we have states that pass laws and then have to engage in battles with specific groups of citizens and legislators about whether they can use embryonic stem cells in addition to adult stem cells. This battle is being waged along the fine line between legislating “morality” and hampering American scientists and researchers–I say hampering and not stopping because, in fact, they can do research with embryonic stem cells if they go to a non-federally funded laboratory to do the work. And of course they have to invest a bunch of time studying the minute fine points of how stem cell funding must be applied for and used.

Almost makes it look like lip service that we’re objecting to using embryonic stem cells. And the fact that legal, legitimate in vitro fertilization labs are already freezing and eventually discarding lots of unused embryos also makes writing all these convoluted regulations seem a bit like creating a tempest in a teacup…and possibly even a less-than-ideal use of taxpayer dollars.

But oh, well. How often do people agree on anything anyway? Each person wants to defend his position against the “other” –and so it goes.