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China bans gender test website

16th November 2010

The Chinese authorities have closed down a website which claimed to sell a US-based gender prediction test kit for unborn foetuses amid fears that couples might choose to abort baby girls on the basis of the tests.

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Official media reports said the product was illegal and unreliable.

The website, which until recently had sold test kits in China, apparently without permission from the manufacturer, now returns an error message.

IntelliGender sells a urine-based "gender prediction test", which it claims can tell the sex of a baby as early as 10 weeks into the gestation period.

The urine dipstick test claims to predict within 10 minutes and with 90% accuracy the gender of the unborn child by colour coding: orange predicts a girl, while green points to a male baby.

But the company said in a statement on its website that it did not approve the sale of the test in China or India.

"IntelliGender does not sell our GPT test in China or India; nor do we license the sale of our product to either of these countries," the statement said.

"If the test is being sold locally in either of these markets, it is not an IntelliGender authorised sale and we do not support this product."

Chinese family planning regulations ban the identification of gender in unborn babies unless the procedure is for strictly medical reasons.

The official Chinese news agency Xinhua said that while the Chinese website had emphasised that knowing a baby's gender could enable women to tailor their nutrition to the specific needs of either gender, China's birth statistics were heavily skewed in favour of males.

Cao Yongfu, medical ethics specialist at Shandong University, told Xinhua that the artificial termination of pregnancy could disturb the natural gender ratio.

The sex ratio of Chinese newborns was 119.45 boys to 100 girls in 2009, according to official figures.

Family planning authorities have investigated more than 20,000 cases of illegal pregnancy gender scans and pregnancy terminations.

Cao said that the gender test-kit should be banned in China, where there is still a strong preference for sons among the country's 900 million rural residents.

Chinese parenting forums have carried recent comments and feedback about the gender test-kit from Chinese users, some of whom had got the wrong result.

The company said it would accept no responsibility for inaccurate test results, because the marketing literature did not promise 100% accuracy in the first place.

The IntelliGender test kit was being sold at a cost of 780 yuan (US$116) to Chinese buyers, compared with just US$34.95 to customers in the US.

The Chinese website made no claim to be connected with IntelliGender, but simply bought the test in the United States and posted the kits to Chinese customers via a company registered in Hong Kong, making it hard for the mainland Chinese authorities to exercise jurisdiction.

Experts say the use of hormone in the mother's urine is still a controversial method of determining the gender of an unborn baby.

China's state food and drug administration, the SFDA, said the sale of any medical products must be approved by them before going on sale.

But officials said the SFDA only had the power to expose those who broke the rules, not pursue them and hand out punishments.

Once the SFDA has confirmed a product's illegality, it should then refer the case to enforcement agencies in the industrial and commercial ministries.

Consumer groups have called on the government to close up loopholes through which companies can sell unapproved medical products to unwitting consumers.



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