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California backs stem cell research

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Californian voters on Tuesday approved a measure providing funding for stem cell research, thus circumventing President Bush's cuts to funding in the field.

Known as Proposition 71, the measure will provide a $3bn state bond over 10 years to set up an Institute for Regenerative Medicine and fund research. It will also outlaw reproductive cloning while allowing stem cell research.

In a break with the Bush administration line, Arnold Schwarzenegger, California's Republican governor, endorsed the bill, saying that "research that we do now holds the promise of cures for tomorrow".

Proposition 71 was also endorsed by Hollywood stars such as Brad Pitt and Michael J. Fox, as well as the American Lung Association and the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation.

Opponents include actor and director Mel Gibson, the Catholic Church and President Bush, who cites moral grounds for opposing all research that involves the destruction of embryos.

Supporters say the programme will provide a significant boost to research into cures for diseases and establish California as a world leader in the field of genetic research. They also hope that stem cell research will result one day in lower medical costs. California's healthcare bill is ballooning, currently running at $110bn per year. ®

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