Contra Costa Times Editorial 9/16/04
Yes on Proposition 71
EVEN AS CALIFORNIA struggles to balance its budget, it has to find a way to continue to invest in the future. Proposition 71 -- the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative -- is an investment that has the potential to bring high returns by creating a new industry that means new high-paying jobs and human talent, but also to ease human suffering caused by debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, diabetes and cancer.
If passed, the measure would allow the state to sell $3 billion in general obligation bonds for human embryonic stem cell research grants. All told, over 30 years, it would cost the state $6 billion including interest.
Traditionally, groundbreaking research of this type with such enormous potential would be funded by the federal government. However, President Bush has taken the federal government out of the picture by drastically limiting the use of federal dollars for advancing stem cell research.
Prop. 71 would create a new state medical research institute called the California
Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which would award the research grants.
The state is in a unique position because its research facilities and the top scientists are already here.
In addition, California-based companies will be able to translate the findings to real world cures and treatment. The Bay Area, already a center of the biotech industry, stands to benefit hugely in this new field.
California, with the world's fifth-largest economy, could successfully compete on its own against other countries that have no restrictions on stem-cell research and are reportedly on the verge of dramatic medical breakthroughs.
It should be noted that stem cell research is still in its infant stage. But scientists say that some treatments could be available in a few years. Much of the opposition to the proposition is based on moral grounds because days-old embryos are destroyed while scientists extract stem cells for study.
Proponents argue that the stem cells will be harvested from embryos discarded from in-vitro fertilization.
Even many conservative lawmakers disagree with Bush, knowing that there are an estimated 400,000 frozen "test tube" embryos, mostly in fertility clinics, that researchers could use and that will otherwise probably be discarded.
The promise is worth the investment. More than 20 Nobel Prize winning scientists are on record in support of expanding stem-cell research through Prop. 71 and the issue has attracted bipartisan backing.
"Passage of (Prop. 71) will energize vitally needed research, not only for the use of stem cells to cure millions of children and adults but also to reduce the state's burdensome health care cost and boost California's economy," said Stanford University Medical Center professor Paul Berg, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine in 1980.
Prop. 71 could make California the center of stem-cell research resulting in medical discoveries that would help millions of sufferers and at the same time, be the regenerative medicine the California economy needs. We urge a yes vote on Proposition 71.