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IBM Calls on Congress to Act on Genetic Non-Discrimination Legislation

Chief Privacy Officer to Testify Before House Education and Labor Subcommittee

WASHINGTON, DC - 30 Jan 2007: Today, IBM's (NYSE: IBM) Chief Privacy Officer, Harriet Pearson, will testify before the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions about the subject of genetic non-discrimination.

IBM filed its testimony on the Genetics Information Non-Discrimination Act last week and will call on Congress to enact laws that prevent discrimination based on genetic information which is increasingly prevalent in the diagnosis and treatment of many medical conditions, as well as in research to discover the fundamental genetic mechanisms of major diseases.

In October 2005, IBM became the first major corporation in the world to establish a genetics privacy policy that prohibits current or prospective employees' genetic information from being used in any employment decisions.

The Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee Hearing on "Protecting Workers from Genetic Discrimination" will take place at 10:30 a.m. at 2175 Rayburn House Office Building, in Washington D.C.

IBM has taken the position that genetic information will not be used in hiring; in determining employees' eligibility for healthcare coverage or other benefits; or in other employment decisions to which such information is not relevant. IBM believes genetic data should be secured not only because the privacy of such information is vital to innovation in healthcare and life sciences, but also because protecting such personal data is a natural extension of the company's nondiscrimination practices.

Pearson, architect of IBM's genetic non-discrimination policy, will testify, "The reasons for making genetic privacy part of our broader discrimination protections are clear to us: first, a person's genetic profile or makeup should be treated the same as other innate human characteristics, including one's race, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, age or physical abilities. Simply stated, a person's genetic profile is as natural and as inseparable from who they are as any other physical trait or attribute."

IBM believes that genetic data or tests results are a valuable tool used in health diagnosis and treatments. One practical reason genetic information should be controlled is that in many instances test results only suggest a risk of developing a disease. It is IBM's view that no employee should lose their health insurance or their livelihood because they have a statistical chance of developing a medical disorder.

Instead, such information can be -- and should be -- used to positive ends: enabling preventative lifestyle changes or tailoring medical regimes to reduce a patient's chance of developing any disease their genes might incline them toward.

With genetic tests available for almost 1,000 diseases today and hundreds more under development, personal genetic data is becoming more commonplace. The danger of not safeguarding information raises the potential for a person with a genetic predisposition toward one or more diseases to be denied healthcare insurance, lose their job or be denied employment altogether.

For more than 90 years, IBM has been a pioneer in ensuring that other human attributes such as race, gender, age, disability or sexual orientation are not used in employment decisions.

For more information about IBM, please visit www.ibm.com

Contact(s) information

Michael Loughran
914.945.1613
mloughra@us.ibm.com

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