Stem cell myths: from Pepsi to Obama & snowflake babies

PepsiIt wasn’t that long ago that I blogged about how some wacky folks were boycotting Pepsi because allegedly stem cells were involved in the production of Pepsi and its testing of sugars.

You’ve heard of Diet Coke? Coke Zero & Pepsi Free?

Maybe there has to be a Stem Free Pepsi?

Really?

Now the Washington Times is acting as a propagandist megaphone for religious extremists who want to ban embryonic stem cell research. They published a propaganda piece yesterday on so-called “Snowflake babies”. These babies come from cryopreserved blastocysts left over from IVF, reportedly “adopted” by parents.

The Washington Times headline reads “Obama defunds ‘snowflake babies'”.

Why do I call this a myth?

Snowflake babies and/or children do exist so they themselves are not myths. You can read about them here on Wikipedia.

The mythology part comes from the implication that if only Obama wouldn’t cut the funding for this snowflake program, there are hoards of parents waiting to try to adopt frozen clusters of cells left over from IVF. The reality is that that just isn’t the case no matter what extremist organizations such as “Nightlight Christian Adoption” might want you to believe.

The Obama administration is in fact ending support for the program in question because of a lack of interest on the part of potential adoptive parents.

How many real, live snowflake children are out there? It is unclear, but the number is unlikely to exceed 100 while the best guess is that 100s of thousands of frozen blastocysts remain from IVF.

The myth is that this adoption program can make a dent in the frozen stockpile of those lab produced blastocysts if only Obama wasn’t an obstacle in the way. It just isn’t so. Regardless of who’s president or what anybody does at the federal level, there is in reality almost zero interest from parents in ‘adopting’ frozen blastocysts.

It is also notable that an important effort of Nightlight Christian Adoption” goes beyond the snowflake fluttering and extends to their goal to end embryonic stem cell research. For example, they are longtime supporters of the federal lawsuit to stop funding of embryonic stem cell research that to this day still threatens potential life saving research and by life saving I mean of real, living breathing Americans.

4 Comments


  1. It is my understanding that Nightlight Christian Adoption has a financial stake in this as well. If I remember correctly, they are a business, charging $10,000 per “adoption”.


    • That is correct. And in their info packet they refer to it as a “product”. If the product is DOA at the fertility clinic you get a new one. If the product is implanted but does not result in a viable pregnancy/birth, you are out the 10k but can feel free to try again. How nice of them.

      I find the term “product” an interesting choice of words coming from a very right wing based company that managed to latch on to federal dollars to promote their own agenda. They are the ones screaming that it’s a fetus at every opportunity. I guess when the opportunity is the money driven bottom line, it’s just a “product”. How incredibly convenient for them.


  2. Snowflake babies are very popular with the anti-stem cell activists and as you point out are really not as common as they want you to believe and make not dent on the numbers of frozen embryos in storage. There are several other points to be made.

    First of all, the 100s of thousands frozen embryos you mention are what are there at any one time. This does not count the numbers that are discarded as medical waste each year. I have no estimates for this, but am sure it is probably in the 100 thousand range each year if you think of all the IVF clinics. They have to discard them because they cannot afford to keep them indefinitely.

    Second, you pointed out that not that many couples want to adapt them, but this is only part of the equation. Many couples do not want their left over embryos adapted by other people. If you are going to use the embryos for adaption, it is the same as for research, you must obtain the consent of the donors and many would prefer the embryos go to research than to adaption (I don’t have a reference off the top of my head, but I know that there have been studies done on this question).

    Third is the money. It is very expensive to store the embryos until you find adaptees and to date, none of these vocal supporters of snowflake adaptions is willing to put up the money.

    Once again as I have before, I offer to anyone who is willing to fund the costs of obtaining consents and the costs of banking the cryopreserved embryos, I am willing to organize and manage such a project. If you are serious and Paul is willing to be intermediary, provide your contact information to this site and I will contact you to discuss the logistics.


  3. If you look through the comments posted on the Washington Times propaganda piece, other than the truly ignorant comments made, the ones that are the most vile, violent and outright racist against POTUS are the comments that have the most positive votes (60+). Truly a haven for those sporting a tin foil hat and a side arm. I’ve seen some scary stuff out there but this was way over the top.

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