|REP. BECERRA VOTES TO PROHIBIT GENETIC DISCRIMINATION, URGES PASSAGE OF GENE PATENTING BAN|
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today the House of Representatives passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (H.R.493/S.358) by an eye-popping vote of 414-1. Representative Xavier Becerra (CA-31), Assistant to the Speaker of the House, the only congressional member from Southern California on the Ways and Means Committee, and the author of the Genomic Research and Accessibility Act (H.R. 977), voted for the bill.
“The discovery and ongoing research of the human genome bestows us with innumerable opportunities to better understand ourselves, and improve the lives of those stricken with disease,” Rep. Becerra said. “At the same time, this knowledge presents unique concerns about how that genomic information is used.”
H.R. 493/S.358 takes groundbreaking, proactive steps to prevent the potentially abusive and discriminatory use of an individual’s genetic data in health coverage and employment, before such practices even take hold.
But more must be done.
Last year, Rep. Becerra and Representative Dave Weldon, M.D. (FL-15) introduced the Genomic Research and Accessibility Act. The bill, once enacted, would put an immediate end to the practice of patenting any and all portions of the human genome.
The legislation gives guidance to the United States Patent and Trademark Office on what is not patentable – in this case genetic material, naturally-occurring or modified.
“Maintaining the human genome in the exclusive province of science and the public interest goes hand in glove with the principle of nondiscrimination,” Rep. Becerra said. “As our scientists continue to uncover the mysteries of our genetic makeup, our lawmakers must provide a legal framework that protects the interests of the individual while allowing for potentially life-saving scientific research to continue uninhibited. The legislation passed today is the first piece in this puzzle – H.R. 977 would help complete the picture.”
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