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German Ethics Council Backs Stem Cell Imports

The German ethics council has given its backing for stem cell imports. The recommendation comes just days after a U.S. firm made front-page news when it said it had cloned a human embryo.

In a narrow vote Germany’s ethics council voted in favour of allowing stem cells imports on Thursday.

The import of stem cells should be allowed for a limited, three-year period under strict conditions, according to council chairman Spiros Simitis.

They should be made available in to both publicly funded and private research. Couples whose embryos the cells came from, should first give their permission for their use and not receive any financial reward.

"This is not a decision, only parliament can take decisions, and it's not a recommendation, it's a possible option," Simitis said.

A parliamentary committee came out against stem cell imports in a separate report earlier this month.

And only four days ago, the German government was quick to denounce the work of a team of US researchers, who successfully cloned human embryos.

The committee’s members regretted the "hectic atmosphere" created by the US news, Simitis said and that had made the decision more difficult.

Sensitive subject

Earlier this year the chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, warned that the ban was hindering the growth of Germany's biotech sector. His remarks provoked an emotional debate.

Embryo research is a sensitive issue in Germany, because of the Nazi’s dream to create an Aryan super race. It has been banned since 1990.

The Bundestag, the country’s lower house of parliament, is due to vote on the issue next January.

The Ethics Committee’s recommendation could lead to a temporary relaxation of the current imports ban on the stem cells necessary to do the research.