MPs yesterday called for the setting up of a human genetics commission to prevent abuse of gene testing and to avoid discrimination against people on the grounds of what is in their genes.
Legislation is also needed to give people the right to privacy about what is written in their genes, according to a report from the Select Committee on Science and Technology, which says misuse of genetic information should be both a criminal and a civil offence.
The report is the first serious attempt by Parliament to grapple with the issues thrown up by the new science of human molecular genetics. Previous calls for regulation have come from non-governmental bodies such as the Nuffield Foundation's Council on Bioethics.
The MPs accuse the insurance industry of "undue complacency" about the possibility of genetic discrimination against those applying for life assurance. Their report says the industry should be given a year to sort itself out or Parliament should decide for it.
The report was welcomed yesterday by Alastair Kent on behalf of the Genetic Interest Group (GIG), which represents the interests of families affected by inherited disorders. Mr Kent pointed out that GIG supports the amendment tabled yesterday to the Disability Discrimination Bill which would prevent the unfair discriminatory use of genetic information by insurers and employers.
"We hope the Government will accept the amendment. It will give them a mechanism by which they can introduce legislation on insurance at the end of the one-year moratorium," Mr Kent said.
Last year, one commercial company began offering genetic tests for cystic fibrosis by post. Although it is a reputable organisation, the …