from Nine MSN
Poverty and deprivation are the main contributors to Maori violence rather than a "warrior gene" - a theory floated by researchers - Maori MP Hone Harawira says.
A New Zealand researcher, Rod Lea, put the "warrior" gene theory forward at an Australian genetics conference this week, acknowledging that it was controversial to suggest an ethnic group had a predisposition toward criminal behaviour.
Harawira said he had been hearing similar things for decades.
"I remember 30 or 40 years ago when I was a kid people said Maori had a natural inclination to play the guitar, that Maori had a natural inclination to play rugby, Maori were good on bulldozers etc...," he told NZPA.
"I've stopped listening to all that sort of carry on."
However if the theory could be backed up with solid evidence then it might be worth a closer look.
"I don't step all over the guy because he's come up with a wild theory.
"But it's not going to change at all the situation we are in right now those things need to be addressed anyway."
Harawira said the main factors contributing to Maori violence were high unemployment rates, poor health, lower life expectancy, poor educational achievement and in many cases severe poverty.
"If you put any group in that situation ... I dare you to point at the group that wouldn't be aggressive as a result of being treated that way."
Lea said Maori men had an over-representation of monoamine oxidase - dubbed the warrior gene - which was associated with aggressive behaviour.
The gene was discovered by American researchers but had never been linked to an ethnic group.
Lea, a genetic epidemiologist at the Institute of Environmental Science and Research in Wellington, told AAP the gene explained some of the problems Maori had.
"Obviously, this means they are going to be more aggressive and violent," Lea said ahead of his presentation to the International Congress of Human Genetics in Brisbane.
"It is controversial because it has implications suggesting links with criminality among Maori people," he said.
"I think there is a link, it definitely predisposes people to be more likely to be criminals and engage in that type of behaviour as they grow older."
Lea said he believed other, non-genetic factors might be at play as well.
"There are lots of lifestyle, upbringing-related exposures that could be relevant here so, obviously, the gene won't automatically make you a criminal."