Labour MEPs say that they are facing defeat this week in a move which could be the first step towards a EU-wide ban on medical research involving human embryos.
Embryonic stem cell research is permitted in the UK, with active encouragement from organisations representing people with life-threatening or degenerative illnesses such as Parkinson's disease.
But even in this country it is considered controversial, and it is effectively banned in several EU states, including Italy and Germany. Objectors claim that the technique is both unnecessary and unethical.
The European Parliament, which meets in Strasbourg tomorrow, will be given a report from its industry committee, which favours embryonic stem cell research, provided that it is strictly regulated.
The case for it has been pushed mainly by MEPs from the UK, which is now a world leader in this form of research.
But opponents, led by Peter Liese, a German Christian Democrat MEP and a pro-life Roman Catholic, will put down an amendment that will in effect prevent the EU funding research projects involving human embryos.
Labour MEP David Bowe said: "It is wrong for the European Parliament to be used to impose one ethical view on the whole of Europe. Europe can't be run as if it were a single state with a religious consensus. There is no ethical consensus in Europe."Reuse content