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Iceland Enters the Gene Trade</B>

January 26, 1999

This past December, Iceland decided to become the first country in the world to sell the rights to its population’s genetic code to a biotechnology company. The highly controversial plan, which was approved into law by the parliament, will grant exclusive rights to deCODE Genetics, Inc., a company owned by Roche Holding AG, a U.S. based pharmaceutical company. A growing number of scientists, doctors and consumer advocates call the arrangement unethical, and say that the database could make the most private details of individuals lives public. They say that the free drugs amount to a tiny handout in exchange for giving up an extraordinary amount of privacy, and warn that insurance companies, employers and others may use the information to discriminate against individuals. Guests:

  • Peter Hauksson, Chairperson of the Icelandic Mental Health Alliance and Co-Chair of Mannvernd, an association that was formed in opposition of the new law that allowed the government of Iceland to sell the genetic history of its population to a corporation. Speaking from Reykjavik.
  • Andrew Kimbrell, Director of the International Center for Technological Assessment in Washington, D.C., a center that assesses the impact of social, economic and environmental impact of cutting-edge technologies. He is also author of the book The Human Body Shop: The Engineering and Marketing of Life.
  • Dr. Ruth Hubbard, Professor Emeritus of Biology at Harvard University and board member of the Council for Responsible Genetics. Call: 617.868.0870.

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