US President Barack Obama is expected to make official today his long-held promise to reverse his predecessor's ban on embryonic stem cell research.
More than that, according to the Washington Post, he will use the executive order he signs today to shield research in the US from politics.
"The president believes that it's particularly important to sign this memorandum so that we can put science and technology back at the heart of pursuing a broad range of national goals," Melody C. Barnes, director of Obama's Domestic Policy Council, told reporters during a telephone briefing yesterday.
Although officials would not go into details, the memorandum will order the Office of Science and Technology Policy to "assure a number of effective standards and practices that will help our society feel that we have the highest-quality individuals carrying out scientific jobs and that information is shared with the public," said Harold Varmus, who co-chairs Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
A decision by George Bush to ban federal funding for embryonic stem cell research was heavily criticized within the scientific community, and hurt the US's competitiveness in the field. The researchers have been waiting, sometimes impatiently, for Obama to make this move.
Not all, however, are happy. Catholic League president Bill Donohue told Catholic Online that Bush's ban was leading to alternatives to using embryonic stem cells.
“When President Bush placed restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, there was no way for scientists to approximate the effectiveness inherent in embryonic stem cells. But that is no longer the case.
"Last fall, Harvard University stem cell researcher Konrad Hochedlinger announced that he was able to coax adult cells to regress into an embryonic state. Scientists everywhere were ecstatic. “It is precisely because there are ethical alternatives to killing embryos that President Obama’s decision is doubly flawed: (a) it is immoral to intentionally destroy nascent human life, and (b) it is even more irresponsible to do so when morally acceptable alternatives exist."
Scientists have long said that embryonic stem cells are best.