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Harradine questions Department of Industry about $46 million gift to Trouson stem cell centre.

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Harradine questions Department of Industry about $46 million gift to Trouson stem cell centre

Senator Harradine today drew attention to the commercial and drug company links of members of the Government appointed “Biotechnology Centre of Excellence Panel of Experts” which recommended Professor Alan Trouson receive $46m to establish the Centre for Stem Cells and Tissue Repair in Melbourne.

Chairperson Dr Peter Jonson is professional company director and Chair of the Australian Institute for Commercialisation; Professor Denis Wade is Chairman and managing Director of Johnson & Johnson Research Pty Ltd and Ian Pitman, formerly Research Director of Fauldings Ltd.

“The composition of this panel reveals a strong commercial/drug company bent,” Senator Harradine said after his questioning of the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources during Estimates hearings this afternoon.

“Drug companies stand to be among the major beneficiaries of ethically questionable stem cell research.

“The panel’s composition was wholly inappropriate and imbalanced.

“There were no consumer representatives on the panel, no representatives of disability groups, no ethicists”.

Biotechnology Australia Executive General Manager, Ms Kerri Hartland, admitted during the hearing that she had not been aware of controversial comments of another panel member, Professor Grant Sutherland, who drew criticism from disability groups for comments made last year during an interview with the ‘7.30 Report’. Professor Sutherland, said: “…if we can prevent the birth of handicapped individuals, then I think that society will be better off. I'm sure for example that Dr Shakespeare [a visiting disability rights activist from the UK who has dwarfism] would prefer not to be handicapped”.

Senator Harradine pointed out that Professor Trounson, who has been appointed CEO of the stem-cell centre, has stated his support for using cloning techniques to create and destroy ‘fresh’ human embryos purely for research purposes. He has made it clear he wants to cut short the moratorium which allows research only on so-called ‘spare’ IVF embryos.

“Clearly this critical issue was not taken into account by the panel in assessing the Trouson application.

“We still know nothing about the consent process. Will IVF parents be told the end use of the stem cells derived from their donated embryos? Who owns the stem cell lines? Where is the duty of disclosure?” Senator Harradine said.

“The $46 million gift to the embryo processing plant in Melbourne also pre-empts Parliamentary consideration of legislation on such experimentation due to be tabled this month.

“The Prime Minister’s approach stands in contrast to that of US President George Bush who has appointed a presidential advisory committee specifically to advise him on matters relating to law and ethics regarding cloning and embryo stem cell/adult stem cell research.

“Yet even before any legislation has been scrutinised by any parliament in this country, money has already been provided to pro-cloning scientists. So much for parliamentary scrutiny and accountability.

“And what happens if the COAG legislation does not pass? Money has already been handed out without any legislation in place to govern it”.

Canberra June 3, 2002 Ph: 02 62773735