Couples will soon be able to choose their life partner solely based on the compatibility of their genes instead of through love, a scientific conference has heard.
Due to the falling cost of DNA testing Britain is on the cusp of a new era of eugenics, according to a leading British scientist.

Prof Armand Leroi, of Imperial College London, said that within five to ten years it will be common for young people to pay to access their entire genetic code.

He told the Euroscience Open Forum 2012, in Dublin, that a desire to have a healthy baby will lead more to request access to the view the genes of any prospective partner.

Armed with this information, the couple could then use IVF to screen babies with incurable diseases.

While it was unlikely people will have the "luxury" of using the technology to design babies, by their intellect or eye colour, they would instead focus on stopping genetic diseases.

Addressing a session titled "I human: are new scientific discoveries challenging our identity as a species", he said the cost of genetic sequencing was falling so quickly that "it is going to become very, very accessible, very, very soon".

The cost of doing a complete genetic map of a person has fallen from $1 billion (£648m) more than a decade ago to about $4,000 (£2593).

He said eugenics were already available, with tens of thousands of unborn babies with Down's syndrome and other illnesses being aborted every year.

He told the conference on Thursday: "These processes are very well established in most European countries.

"Many of the ethical problems that people raise when they speak of neoeugenics are nought once you offer gene selection or mate selection as a eugenic tool.

"We are actually beginning to identify the genes that make a human."

He added: "The search for an essence is a 2,000-year-old myth. What we are left with is a sense of capacity and the role of genes in the way they give us these things.

"I am certain genome sequencing will be available on the NHS within our lifetimes. It is going to be very, very accessible very, very soon."

Philippa Taylor, of the Christian Medical Fellowship, told the Daily Mail: "Our society's increasing obsession with celebrity status, physical perfection and high intelligence fuels the view that the lives of people with disabilities or genetic diseases are somehow less worth living.

"We must recognise and resist the eugenic mind set.

"Our priorities should be to develop treatments and supportive measures for those with genetic disease; not to search them out."