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Democrats media gene privacy laws needed.



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DEMOCRATS MEDIA 04/765 MONDAY 16 AUGUST 2004 SENATOR NATASHA STOTT DESPOJA AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRATS SCIENCE SPOKESPERSON GENE PRIVACY LAWS NEEDED Australian laws involving genetic screening and bio-technology are lagging far behind scientific discoveries and must be updated, Democrats Science and Biotechnology Spokesperson Natasha Stott Despoja has told a Victorian State Final of the GenETHICS Competition. Senator Stott Despoja told the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute coordinated event there was no nationally consistent legislation dealing with genetic privacy and non-discrimination, and such legislation was vital to facilitate new technology. "Australia is a world leader in medical research, but our scientists are way ahead of our Government and hence our laws do not deal adequately with technology such as compulsory genetic screening," Senator Stott Despoja said. "It would be alarming if research was to slow down because we can't develop laws in time, current genetic research is far too important for that, and Parliament must catch up. "It is vital Parliament adequately legislates to protect the privacy of people’s genetic information. "My Private Member’s Bill dealing with genetic privacy and potential discrimination, was ignored by the Government, and Australia now has documented cases of genetic discrimination. "The Government has been sitting on its hands ever since it received the Australian Law Reform Commission and Australian Health Ethics Committee’s 2003 report, Essentially Yours: The Protection of Human Genetic Information in Australia (ALRC 96, 2003), which I helped initiate, and must accept the responsibility for making the laws to allow research to progress. "It is time Australia regulated the exciting and expanding area of genetic technology. A comprehensive national network of laws, ethical practices and regulation is long overdue. "The ALRC recommended the establishment of a Human Genetics Commission (HGC) in Australia. "Such a commission would be an important step in the formulation of biotechnology and genetic laws, as well as providing ongoing information for the public. But nothing has been done." Media contact - Kate Griffith - 0417 085 260