In recent years, tremendous advances have been made in the field of genetics. With the ability to view increasingly complex interrelationships between genes and devise exceptionally accurate tests for predisposition to disease, we can now alert certain individuals to future health problems years in advance of the recognition of symptoms. But while such knowledge holds great promise, genetic testing has potentially adverse effects that could overshadow and even impede future progress. The science of genetics is widely believed to have originated with Austrian botanist Gregor Mendel, who discovered the principle of the inheritance of physical traits through the combination of genes from parent cells. As genetics evolved, researchers found that the information transmitted from parent to offspring controls more than mere physical resemblance. In fact, it plays a part in governing immunity and pinpointing susceptibility to certain diseases and disorders, This is a great step forward in medical science for those who can be treated. Problems arise, however, when we can predict illnesses in individuals for which there is no known cure. In October 2000, a British government committee made an announcement that raised precisely such issues. After conducting research into genetic tests for a fatal brain condition known as Huntington's disease, the committee announced that it is now possible to accurately predict which people will suffer from the condition later in life. While these findings were appropriately lauded as a medical breakthrough, the news has significant social implications as well. Case in point: the life insurance industry. Life insurance is a virtual necessity in the U.K.―it is nearly impossible to make a long-term financial commitment, such as a mortgage without it. And like any other kind of insurance, it is based upon risk assessment. Diagnostic tests such as the one developed for Huntington's disease could give insurance providers a much greater level of power over the consumer, allowing them to adjust premiums in accordance with test results or even exclude applicants altogether. The National Consumer Council in England has argued that people may actually have to avoid taking genetic tests in order to prevent insurance companies from haying the grounds to dismiss their applications. This could lead to an absurd situation whereby people are prepared to go undiagnosed so that they might be covered by insurance. The issue of genetic prejudice has also reared its head across the Atlantic. Federal government agencies in the United States are banned from using genetic information as grounds to discriminate, but private-sector entities are not bound by the same regulations. There is increasing pressure upon the U.S. Congress to ratify the Genetic Nondiscrimination in Health Insurance and Employment Act, which aims to extend such controls beyond the public sector. In the absence of such regulations, sophisticated levels of genetic testing may have the power to create a genetic underclass.