BioWorld International Correspondent

BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Trade Union Confederation called on Oct. 29 for the prohibition of genetic screening in the work place.

European Union rules on personal data protection should clearly state that prohibition, it said in a statement, claiming that the technique was totally unjustified and could make no useful contribution to the safety of workers.

ETUC said that, despite widespread use in the U.S., genetic testing is still not used by the majority of European companies. Already three EU member states - Austria, Belgium and Finland - have banned the technique in the work place. Also, the EU expert group on ethics in sciences and new technologies expressed "very clear opposition to genetic testing" in its July 2003 opinion on the ethical aspects of genetics in the work place, the trade union group pointed out.

The ETUC statement relayed concerns over introducing discrimination among workers according to genetic characteristics, and even indirect forms of racial discrimination. It is going to formally request the EU to "come to a clear conclusion on this question and to adopt legislation ensuring the protection of workers in this field."

The EU is due to present a proposal for tighter legislation on protection of worker information at the end of November. EU officials said last year, in a consultation document on the subject, that they wanted to limit the use of genetic testing for decisions on employee promotion - to protect data on individual workers and their families.