The Honorable Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
Speech on the Senate Floor on the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act S.5
April 11, 2007
Mr. BINGAMAN . Mr. President, I yield myself 5 minutes from the time
reserved on Senator Harkin's side.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, the Senator is
recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. BINGAMAN . Mr. President, I rise in favor of S. 5, the stem cell
enhancement bill of 2007. Many of my colleagues have eloquently stated
reasons for supporting this bill over the past 2 days. The passage of
this bill would be an important step forward for research into
treatments of devastating diseases. In addition, passing S. 5 will help
the United States as a leader in biomedical research, a leader in
transparent and ethical research practices, and a leader in developing
safe, effective treatments for diseases. I wish to see stem cell
therapies developed in this country so we can ensure the safety and
availability of these treatments for American families and at the same
time create jobs for highly skilled workers to do the necessary research
and to develop these new treatments.
Our current policy puts us at a severe disadvantage to other
countries. As the Director of the NIH said at a recent hearing, our
current stem cell policy is akin to working with one hand tied behind
our backs. Scientists in most other countries are at an advantage to
U.S. scientists because they are allowed to study the best stem cell
lines and do so with government funding.
Let me explain this world stem cell policies map I have put up. It is
color coded to show the different stem cell policies that exist in
different parts of the world.
We have essentially chosen four colors or four categories of
policies I am trying to focus on. First, we have the countries in yellow
which have not adopted stem cell policies. You can see those countries
are fairly extensive. Next to those are those that have adopted
stem cell policies.
Next to those are those that have adopted stem cell policies.
The United States is part of that group. Those are the
countries in gray on this world map. The United States is among the most
restrictive of those countries that are in gray, but we do have other
countries that have policies that are in that category as well.
Third are the countries in light brown which allow the creation of
stem cell lines from leftover embryos in IVF clinics. We can see those
light-brown countries. Passing S. 5 would move the United States into
that group of countries, such as France and Canada and Brazil.
The final group depicted on this world map is those that are shaded
in dark brown. These countries allow other laboratory techniques to be
used to create embryonic stem cell lines. You will notice that many of
these countries have very strong scientific research programs. I
particularly mention the United Kingdom, India, and China as part of
that. Scientists in these countries, other than the United States, are
free to use the type of stem cells best suited to their research,
whether they are adult stem cells or embryonic stem cells created before
2001 or embryonic stem cells created after 2001. In fact, many countries
have been promoting stem cell research because they see this as an
opportunity to get ahead in this field during a time when U.S.
scientists are restricted to less useful stem cell lines.
For example, the United Kingdom has established a world stem cell
bank to collect, characterize, and distribute embryonic stem cell lines
to researchers around the world. The United Kingdom has also developed a
comprehensive national regulatory system that requires researchers to
follow strict ethical guidelines. While these regulations may slow
research to some extent, embryonic research is an area that merits extra
care and transparency and oversight. We should not relinquish our duty
to uphold high ethical research standards to other countries or to
individual States within this country or to the market more generally.
I ask unanimous consent for an additional 2 minutes.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so
ordered. The Senator is recognized.
Mr. BINGAMAN . Many other countries, including Singapore, Korea, and
Australia, also have federally funded centers for embryonic stem cells.
However, it will be difficult for the United States to capitalize on the
research advances that are made in these other countries since federally
funded scientists in the United States are restricted from collaborating
with foreign scientists who use the stem cell lines that were generated
Furthermore, we can't leave this important field of science to the
private sector alone.
We have a long history of bipartisan support for basic science
research in this country precisely because it does not make financial
sense for industries to invest substantially in early-stage research.
Any scientist will tell you that human embryonic stem cell research is
still in its early stages, and that it has gone more slowly than it
would have otherwise gone because of the restrictions currently in place
in our own policy. Furthermore, most cell-based therapies, including
bone marrow stem cell transplants, were first developed in academic
research hospitals and have never been widely utilized. This means
Federal funding is even more important for cell-based therapies such as
stem cell transplants than it is for other types of treatments.
Mr. President, I urge my colleagues to support S. 5. It is an
important step to keep the United States a world leader in the field of
biomedical research, and it will give hope to many of our citizens for
the treatments they desperately need.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.