US President Bill Clinton has signed an executive order that bars federal agencies from using genetic information to discriminate against employees. He has also given his backing to pending senate bills that aim to prevent private sector employers and insurers from doing the same.
Clinton said it was time to consider the consequences of the rapid progress in human genetics. 'This extraordinary march of human understanding imposes on us a profound responsibility to make sure that the age of discovery can continue to reflect our most treasured values', he told the American Association for the Advancement of Science last week.
The order prohibits federal employers from using or requesting genetic tests as a condition of being hired or receiving benefits. Employers would also be prohibited from denying promotion or overseas posts to employees because of genetic predisposition for a certain illness.
Although only a handful of discriminatory incidents have so far been reported in the US, White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said the order looked ahead five years to a time when a person's genetic make-up may be readily available. 'By signing this order' Clinton said, 'my goal is to set an example and pose a challenge for every employer in America because I believe no employer should ever review your genetics records along with your resume.'