I often criticize people who disagree with me in the biotechnology debates for misleading the public and playing political games. Integrity now compels me to point out that Wisconsin Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Green is cynically attempting to harness all the hype surrounding Advanced Cell Technology’s non- breakthrough in embryonic stem cell research to deflect criticism for his support as a congressman for President Bush’s funding policy.
Green, has promised that if elected he will invest $25 million of state money toward perfecting the approach that ACT’s experiment indicate might be possible, e.g., take one cell from an early embryo and derive ES cell lines without destroying the organism. Green says that if the experiments work, he would urge President Bush to allow federal funding for research from such stem cell lines, and claims that the money invested in the technique would put WI at the center of stem cell science.
This is dumb–and disingenuous. The ACT approach, even if it would work, is unlikely to materially change the state of science during the remainder of President Bush’s term. Moreover, even if it could be made to work, it would probably still violate the Dickey Amendment that since 1996 has prevented federal funding of research that destroys or harms embryos. Third, if WI is going to invest tens of millions of taxpayer dollars into stem cell research, there are certainly a lot of places it could be better spent, including more promising avenues of alternative sources of stem cells.
But these other areas didn’t make international headlines. Hence, Green is actually trying to boost his chances of election by harnessing the hype from ACT’s embryonic stem cell non-breakthrough and thereby deflect attention from his voting record in order to fool the voters of Wisconsin into believing he could support embryonic stem cell research.
Green has stood against treating human embryos as mere instrumentalities by supporting President Bush’s funding policy. He should now stand proudly behind this view. Moreover, the voters have a right to judge his suitability for governor with a clear view of his positions on stem cell research. Instead, he has attempted a cynical ploy that will not win him any votes from those who oppose his stem cell stance, but which has the potential to alienate those who support it.