Sunday, March 15, 2009

Stem Cell

This week, there will be more debate on stem cell legislation in the Georgia House after a weaker -- but still dangerous to the bioscience industry -- bill passed the Georgia Senate late on Thursday.

Jim Galloway of the AJC continues to offer real insights from the Gold Dome, and his story on the issue shows that Georgia Right to Life really cares very little for a key industry in this state. Check out the excerpt below:

The Senate measure has injected uncertainty into the mind of any biotech executive operating in Georgia, Becker said. Keep up the fight year after year, and eventually businesses that rely on embryonic research will realize they’re not welcome.

Becker cited a similar strategy executed in Missouri. Many efforts at embryonic stem cell research in that state have shifted to nearby Kansas and Illinois.

There is no doubt this is a complex issue. After watching the debate around the Senate Bill on Thursday, I realized that the danger isn't necessarily that we are having a dialogue on the issue in Georgia. It is the non-scientific, non-informed nature of that debate that may be truly damaging to our efforts.

Whether you agree with President Bush's decision to ban the use of federal funds for stem cells in 2001 or not, at least he made a serious speech about it and explained his rationale. Watching Georgia's conservative senate delegation attempting to defend their own legislation as something benign -- and at times, as something totally different than it was -- was downright embarrassing, particularly when they claimed the bill would not harm the in vitro industry in Georgia. Fortunately, much of the offending language in that area was removed from the stripped down bill that passed the Senate, and its fate is uncertain in the House.

The stakes are particularly high for our region, which is seeking to position itself as a bioscience hub. One of our own senators introduced the legislation that is now in play -- what does this say for our area? Even if we never have a large stem cell research company in this area, the overall message that this legislation sends to the industry and to researchers is absolutely not a positive, and those who would rather not see bioscience industries in Georgia understand that. And so do other states, which are already using our "drought," transportation woes and other issues against us. They'd love to have one more issue to add to their list.

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