Germany and Poland have been leading a multinational effort to reject European Union funding for embryonic stem-cell research. The issue is expected to come to a head today, when a vote will be held at a meeting of European science ministers.

Germany and Poland have been joined by Austria, Slovakia, Lithuania, Malta and Luxembourg in questioning the future of EU-backed experiments to include stem cells derived from embryos, reported the Financial Times. Slovenia dealt the coalition a blow late last week when it changed positions and turned in favor of funding the embryonic research.

An unnamed EU diplomat told the Financial Times that, “Germany is doing a lot of the [lobbying] work.”

In a letter last week, Germany wrote: "The EU science program should not be used to give financial incentives to kill embryos. The current proposal from the European Commission and the European parliament does not rule this out."

Germany’s position is in line with the European bishops, who jointly stated that such research raises fundamental anthropological and ethical problems.

“Many people are uneasy about research instrumentalizing human life and using it as a raw material,” said a statement from the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community. “This is not just a Catholic position. Scientifically, there is no reason to make a moral distinction between an embryo at the very beginning of his or her life and after implantation in the womb or after 14 days.”

“Human dignity does not depend - and must not be made dependent - on decisions of other human beings,” the statement said. The bishops added that human life which is initiated in a laboratory rather than within a woman’s body needs particular protection.

If the majority of the EU's 25 members vote today to renew funding, such experiments would continue until 2014.  However, EU-funded research would not use stem cells for reproductive cloning and would not allow the creation of human embryos for research.