President Bush's announcement permitting limited research on human embryonic stem cells (see previous item) was greeted, at least officially, with cautious optimism by American biologists.

The American Society for Cell Biology, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) each issued statements supporting the policy. However, they tempered that support with concerns that the scientific viability and commercial availability of the available lines will slow the pace of discovery.

But they did not officially voice the community's latent fear that the policy will severely constrain US stem-cell research.

Before the policy was announced, Tony Mazzaschi, associate vice-president for research at the AAMC, stated that such a compromise approach “doesn't make any sense, hold any water, or gain the administration anything”. Yet after Bush's speech, the AAMC released a statement saying it was encouraged that funding could go forward. FASEB also said it was pleased the research could go forward, “if only in a limited way”.

Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, says he is surprised that the scientific community has not been more direct in its response. Because so many limits have been placed on what can be funded, many universities will be reluctant to allow their scientists to pursue the research, he says. “The president effectively sold a ban. The scientific community has decided to accept what can only be called a crumb.”