Victoria indicates a change of heart on stem cell policy

By Tanya Hollis
Friday, 01 March, 2002

Victoria's government has backed stem cell research despite its existing ban on embryonic cell studies.

Premier Steve Bracks said on Melbourne radio this week he would be "very disappointed" if a ban on the technique spelled the end of stem cell research.

He said he supported the research and would review Victoria's prohibitive laws.

Currently in Victoria the destruction of embryos for research purposes is banned, but stem cell lines are allowed to be imported into the state.

A spokeswoman for the Premier said today that Bracks was party to last year's Council of Australian Governments (COAG) resolution to form a national approach to the issue of cloning and stem cell research.

She said that while Bracks supported stem cell research he would be working towards the uniform national approach.

On Monday, February 25, Federal Cabinet discussed banning the use of IVF human embryos for research, with subsequent media reports hinting a blanket ban was imminent.

While Cabinet denied the suggestion of a total ban, saying it was yet to formally determine its position, Minister for Ageing Kevin Andrews signalled it was likely to take a conservative approach.

Embryonic stem cells, regarded as the building blocks of human tissue, can be taken from embryos left over from in vitro fertilisation procedures.

The cells can be grown into any type of body tissue, and are believed to offer potential cures for diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and diabetes.

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