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Genetics and Ethics competition

Genetics and Ethics competition

NZORD - the New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders NZORD and the Royal Society introduce genETHICS competition to New Zealand schools.

Should we test school students for genetic risks? If so, what conditions should be tested for, when and why?

These are some of the questions that New Zealand school students will investigate as part of the genETHICS competition now available to secondary school students. The winner of the New Zealand competition will win a cash prize and will compete with finalists from Australian States for the Australasian prize of a trip for two to the Dolan DNA Learning Centre in Cold Spring Harbour, New York.

The scenario that entrants must write their essay about, is fictional, though based on an actual event. Hopeful music star Sarah Clotter misses her chance at the International Idol Competition after developing a blood clot in her leg on a flight to London, leading her MP Dad to call for compulsory genetic screening for Factor V Leiden, the genetic mutation that can increase risk of deep vein thrombosis (economy class syndrome).

Competition entrants must demonstrate an understanding of the science underpinning the Factor V Leiden risk, and analyse the social and ethical issues involved in any proposed screening programme. Six finalists chosen from submitted essays will present their arguments at a New Zealand final in August.

Brought to New Zealand by the NZ Organisation for Rare Disorders, in partnership with the Royal Society of New Zealand and the NZ Association of Science Educators (NZASE), the genETHICS competition has run in some Australian States since 1999. NZORD Executive Director, John Forman, negotiated an extension of the competition to include New Zealand schools with officials from the Melbourne-based Co-operative Research Centre for Gene Discovery. Introduction into schools here was facilitated by the Royal Society's role in supporting NZASE, providing key links to science teachers.

"We are delighted at this co-operation between various interests to bring this competition here," said Mr Forman.

"There is a need for more informed discussion on genetics and the implications for society, and this milestone event gives a great opportunity for students to do some detailed analysis of the issues for themselves."

Students can get competition details from their science teacher, and have till 9 July to submit their entries. You can find out more information about genETHICS on the Gene CRC website in the learning centre section. This site features details of previous competitions and includes previous students' winning essays and presentations.

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