A nationwide referendum on embryonic stem cell research passed easily in Switzerland on Sunday with the support of two-thirds of the voters. Debates there had mirrored the pattern in other countries, with an alliance of religious, pro-life and green groups clashing with science and industry groups. The referendum was strongly supported by the Swiss pharmaceutical and biotech sector which, along with healthcare, accounts for about one-third of the total capitalisation of the Zurich stock exchange. Novartis and Roche, two of the world’s largest drug companies, are based in Switzerland. Under the new legislation, stem cell production will be limited to embryos not more than 7 days old; therapeutic cloning, embryo trading and research on embryos themselves are all banned.
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