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Germany

German Scientists Permitted to Import Stem Cells

But German parliament places strict conditions on the import of embryonic stem cells that scientists believe could cure a number of diseases.

A packed German parliament followed European neighbors France and Great Britain and voted in favor of a bill allowing the import of stem cells for scientific research.

But German parliamentarians placed strict conditions on the import, requiring that only existing stem cell lines be used and then only in extreme cases where no other research methods were possible.

The vote means a victory of sorts of German researchers, who will be able to join their colleagues in France and England in attempting to use embryonic stem cells to cure diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

The bill, supported by both Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of the Social Democratic Party and Angel Merkel, the head of the opposition Christian Democratic Union, won 340 votes across party lines. A second bill, which rejected stem cell imports outright, won 265 votes. A third and final bill, allowing the unconditional import of stem cell lines, met defeat in the first round of voting early Wednesday evening.

The divisive ethical issue was debated for more than four hours on Wednesday. Parliamentarians mostly abandoned party lines and voted with their conscience.

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