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China offers genetic testing to help identify children's natural talents

10 August 2009
Appeared in BioNews 520

A Chinese firm has begun offering DNA testing of children for 11 genes which it claims can be used to predict the child’s future talents and thus allow parents to target their rearing of the child towards its supposed latent potential. The Shanghai Biochip Corporation, which provides the test, takes a cheek swab from the children at the beginning of a five day summer camp during which the children are extensively profiled based on their performances in a range of activities.

The company claims that the tests will allow it to make recommendations to parents on the most effective areas to target their energies based on genetic predictions of the child’s IQ (intelligence quotient), emotional control, focus, memory, height, impulsiveness, willingness to take risks, listening, athletic, artistic and other abilities.

In an interview with CNN, the director of the camp at Chongqing Children’s Palace, Dr Zhao Mingyou, claimed that the technology could even provide genetic projections of the children’s career paths and recommendations of appropriate career paths are made to the parents. He states that 'nowadays, competition in the world is about who has the most talent... We can give Chinese children an effective, scientific plan at an early age.'

The camp currently provides the testing on children from three to 12 years in age but the company says that it would be suitable for use on newborns so that parents can begin targeting their child’s training from an even earlier stage (with governmental programs such as those in gymnastics beginning on children as young as two).

At more than £500, many will question the worth of testing for such complex and ephemeral traits as IQ based on such a small of genes. The importance of non-genetic factors is also downplayed by such genetic tests but Yang Yingqing, technical director of Shanghai Biochip’s lab states simply that: 'China is different from western countries. There is only one child in our families so more and more parents focus on their children's education and they want to give them the best education.'

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