Otherwise Known as the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative

Embryo Vivisection and Elusive Promises Act

Unable to attract private investors, and shut out of federal dollars, the biotech industry has partnered with Hollywood and the disease lobby in a widely publicized attempt to fund human cloning and embryonic stem cell research with taxpayer dollars.

This November voters will find the "California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative" on the ballot. This is a deceptively labeled $3 billion bond initiative, one which amends the California state Constitution.

To be on the ballot, proponents are required to secure 600,000 signatures. But thanks to a number of wealthy backers who bankrolled the campaign to obtain signatures, the number will soon be met and surpassed.

There are multiple layers of misrepresentation in the ballot language. For example, proponents pretend that the measure actually bans the use of funds for human cloning.

In fact it merely constrains "human reproductive cloning." So-called "therapeutic cloning" would not be banned. Both techniques produce cloned human embryos. With the latter, however, there is no intention to allow the birth of a human being.

The initiative would fund any research or therapy involving human cloning as long as it is not what it calls "human reproductive cloning." This is defined as "the practice of creating or attempting to create a human being by transferring the nucleus from a human cell into an egg cell from which the nucleus has been removed for the purpose of implanting the resulting product in a uterus to initiate a pregnancy." As a result, if passed the initiative would create a constitutional "right to conduct stem cell research which includes research involving ..." embryonic stem cell research and the cloning of human embryos for research and destruction.

In 2002, the California legislature made permanent a policy that allows for human cloning, provided that every human embryo or fetus that is created is killed, but funding has been scarce.

The language of the initiative disguises the impact of the proposal by using scientific terminology such as "somatic cell nuclear transfer" (SCNT), without explanation to the voter who may not realize that this means human cloning. The word "embryo" appears nowhere in the initiative; in its place is the degrading term "products."

Research into adult stem cell research, which actually has had some wonderful achievements, could also be funded. However, since there are no current bars to such funding, that is obviously not the objective of this measure.

Rather, the biotech industry and others continue to mislead the public and those with heartbreaking diseases. They offer false hope that so-called "therapeutic cloning" (which is still human cloning, only the embryo is never intended to be implanted!), and embryonic stem cell experiments will carry the day.

The truth is to date such research is without visible success. Indeed there have been stunning failures, such as transplants that cause increased tremors in Parkinson's patients, and the creation of cancerous tumors in animals.

The initiative creates a new state agency called the "California Institute for Regenerative Medicine," and a 29-member "Independent Citizen's Oversight Committee" to govern the institute. Some of the members of this committee would be appointed by chancellors of the University of California, whose institutions would obviously have a clear financial interest in garnering such research projects.

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation has already underwritten the paid signature-gathering effort to the tune of $500,000. But that's just a down payment in a campaign, which could run to $20 million. According to published reports, the names of Hollywood producers and celebrities are already lined up behind it, with more to come.

So in a state where the fiscal shortfall dwarfs the entire budgets of most of the states, taxpayers will be asked to fork over "an average of $295 million per year over a 10-year period" for research clearly opposed by the public. (See the May 2002 Gallup poll, which shows that the public opposes the "cloning of human embryos for use in medical research" by 61%-34%.)

Even by California standards this is a lot of money, so it is written into the initiative that the start of the payback is postponed until 2010. Regardless, the Legislative Analyst's Office calculates that the stemcell bonds would actually cost $6 billion to pay off over 30 years.

Opponents have carefully explained why they oppose research using human embryos and support research that uses ethically unobjectionable sources, such as adult stem cells. "We are all in favor of stem cell research, as long as it does not involve human embryos," Gene Tarne, a spokesman for Do No Harm, told the Boston Globe. "You're creating new life for the sole purpose of destroying that new life."

The California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative may well be the most radical proposal ever to go before the voters, and a cruel hoax on those with serious diseases. But because there is great money behind the effort and the almost universal support of the major media in California, it will require a battle royal to defeat.