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Singapore Launches Controversial Web Site - 2001-08-22


Singapore has launched a new biotech web site to explain controversial stem cell and cloning research to the public. The move comes as Catholic and Taoist religious groups object to such research being carried out in the city-state.

The government-appointed Bioethics Advisory Committee posted a web site Wednesday to answer frequently asked questions regarding cloning and stem cell research.

The 11-member committee was created in December to formulate guidelines for cutting-edge biological research here in Singapore. The site seeks to address ethical, legal and social issues and define terms commonly used in medical research.

The committee says its guiding principle is to protect the rights and welfare of individuals while allowing the biomedical sciences to develop and realize its full potential for the benefit of mankind.

The committee includes a philosophy professor, an editor, a judge and scientists.

The web site comes as Catholic and Taoist groups are calling for such research to be banned. They find stem cell research, in particular, morally objectionable and unnatural. The Catholics argue the research would be tantamount to sacrificing human life in the interests of science.

Stem cells are found inside human embryos during the early weeks of development. Scientists believe they have the potential to develop into other cells that can be used to replace damaged cells and organs and possibly cure diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

Singapore is anxious to become a life sciences hub in Asia to help diversify it export-dependent economy, which is currently in recession.

Singapore-linked company, E.S. Cell International, says it hopes to become a major stem-cell supplier by hiking its output a hundred-fold. The company says it has been inundated with requests for stem cells since the United States announced federal funding would only be allowed for limited research using stem cells

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