The last decade has seen rapid discoveries in the genetic basis of disease associated with the Human Genome Project (HGP). Understanding the social (including legal, ethical and political) impact of the these findings, however, lags far behind. This paper addresses the social context of biotechnologies arising out of this project as well as the tension between the individual and collective uses of these technologies. The danger is that, in the context of a global trend towards conservatism, the ideology of genetic reductionism is legitimizing the abandonment of collectivist responses to social problems in favour of the promotion of individualist ones. In seeking to pursue health policy objectives of reducing premature morbidity and mortality more traditional public health concerns are in danger of being marginalized.