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Genetic exceptionalism and precautionary politics: regulating for uncertainty in Britain's genetics and insurance policy process

Mittra, J

Science and Public Policy   33 (8) 585-600

January 2006

This article critically investigates the role 'genetic exceptionalism' and precautionary politics played in the British policy process that resulted in a moratorium on insurers' rights to use certain types of genetic information in underwriting decisions. The article evaluates the recommendations of key advisory committees and regulatory bodies as they tried to construct fair and pragmatic policies in a context of great social, commercial and technological uncertainty. It suggests that in trying to meet the needs of political expediency - responding to broader concern that access to life assurance might be significantly restricted in an age of increased genetic knowledge - policymakers and regulators marginalised evidence that negated fears of an emerging 'genetic underclass' by adopting a precautionary approach to genetic risk and exclusion.