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.

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

after 2001.


   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.