Scientists to Pentagon: Map Every Soldier's Genome

Report prompts fears over flaws in process, discrimination
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Jan 14, 2011 6:44 AM CST
Updated Jan 14, 2011 7:56 AM CST
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, left, accompanied by Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, gestures during a news conference to discuss defense budget cuts, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011, at the Pentagon.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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(Newser) – A secretive group of top scientists is pushing the Pentagon to map the genomes of all military personnel, the Huffington Post reports. Such mapping could reveal information about troops' "responses to battlefield stress"—for example, how well they can tolerate "sleep deprivation, dehydration, or prolonged exposure to heat," the scientists' report says, pointing to "medical cost containment." The suggestion has some experts worried about flaws in the process as well as its moral implications.

Studying genes to determine traits "is really hard and complicated, and may not be predictive at all," says a bioethicist. And the information could be used "to harm innocent people" or "discriminate against persons simply because of the physical circumstances of their birth." A government official says the group’s suggestions are just "one of many inputs that we take in"—but an expert on the anonymous scientists, who are known as Project Jason, says their reports are "taken very seriously." Click for more on the idea.

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