Boys need not behave badly

19.10.11: THE DIRECTOR of the biotech giant Affymetrix was pelted with eggs yesterday by demonstrators protesting about its negative behaviour chip.

The NBC, a development of the DNA chips developed in the late 1990s, can identify whether a person has genes that make them prone to violence, alcoholism, sudden mood swings or procrastination.

"This is psychological eugenics," said Mike Tyre of Hog (Hands Off Our Genes). "The links between genes and behaviour are still poorly understood. Genes are a list of ingredients, not a recipe for their interactions. Concentrating on them gives business an excuse to ignore social conditions and blame problems on individuals."

DNA chips can detect harmful mutations in a person's genes from no more than a drop of blood. Widely used in premarital testing to detect whether either partner is likely to pass on one of 5,000 single-gene diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, the chips rapidly found their way into GPs' surgeries.

The negative behaviour chip has been programmed to detect only gene mutations that have been linked with undesirable social traits.

"This will be a valuable aid to companies wanting to attract a loyal and reliable workforce," said Affymetrix's managing director, Justin Ford.

Genetic testing has come under attack on several fronts. Originally, critics said that allowing a prospective mother to screen her embryo for defects encouraged a form of parental eugenics. Then, as genetic screening became more detailed, it was attacked for burdening parents with a bewildering array of choices in weighing up the different probabilities of dozens of diseases.

The Gene Liberation Front was formed in 2007 to protest at how genetic testing stigmatised the disabled. "Just when we were being recognised as individuals with rights, genetic testing put us back in the Dark Ages. It is designed to do away with people like us," said a spokesman in a wheelchair. JB

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