Legislation giving the University of Minnesota permission to use state money on all varieties of stem cell research was revised to explicitly bar human cloning.//
The amended proposal cleared the House Higher Education and Work Force Development Committee on a 12-7 vote.
Scientists are studying embryonic stem cells to find treatments or cures for spinal cord injuries and diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and diabetes. The issue has become tangled in an ethical debate because embryos are usually destroyed in the process.
Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, supported the change to her bill to ease concerns about how far the research could go. It would be a felony to engage or assist in human cloning, which is defined as "replication of a human individual by cultivating a cell with genetic material through the egg, embryo, fetal and newborn stages into a new human individual."
"It's a backstop against what they're saying the slippery slope is," Kahn said.
But opponents tried to enact even stricter limits. Those attempts failed.
Rep. Dan Severson, R-Sauk Rapids, said using state money for embryonic stem cell research is the equivalent of government-funded abortion.
"It's a wide-open bill," he said. The bill, he added, "opens the door to who knows what in the next 30 years."
Gov. Tim Pawlenty is on record opposing government-backed embryonic cell research that results in the destruction of the embryo. He said he would support other types, including study of adult cell lines or those derived from discarded umbilical cords.
The bill has one more House committee stop before a floor vote; a companion bill hasn't received a Senate hearing yet.
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