For immediate release 24 June 2003


Genetics white paper reveals biased approach

Human Genetics Alert (HGA;1) said today that the government is rushing into genetics without putting in place the necessary safeguards on ethical and social issues.
HGA's Director, Dr David King said: "Overall, the paper is long on glowing descriptions of the potential of genetics and short on specific and adequate measures to meet public concerns.  The government has been taken in by the hype coming from scientists and the biotechnology industry.  For example, the government wants to boost gene therapy, yet most scientists now believe its prospects are very limited.  In fact, recently trials have been halted due to leukaemias caused by the treatments.  Government money would be better spent on tackling the environmental and social causes of disease, which are far more important than genetics.  We need a proper review of funding in this area.
"Although the government promises safeguards, it is so far refusing to legislate against genetic discrimination by insurers and employers.  Both the public and a number of inter-governmental declarations have been demanding such legislation for several years.  The proposals for protecting genetic privacy are unclear and inadequate.
"Consistent with this bias, its main effort on public awareness consists of funding the Progress Educational Trust, a body that has consistently been dedicated to advocating relaxation of regulation, and has even been equivocal on human cloning."
For more information, contact Dr David King, 020 7704 6100
Notes for editors
1. Human Genetics Alert is an independent watchdog group and is funded by a leading British charity.
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