Saturday, November 17, 2007
So the move towards a consumer-based form of genetic profiling continues... The New York Times has a story
today about companies that will, for a fee, provide the genetic equivalent of a personal tarot card reading, providing a genetic answer to your nagging questions about why you don't like brussel sprouts. But, of course, more serious questions are in the cards, like your predisposition to breast cancer or arthritis. While the author does briefly remind us that genetics isn't definitive proof of very much (literally in one sentence), she spends the rest of the entire article discussing how it might as well be.
I have just finished reading about a group in the San Francisco Bay area called the Toxic Links Coalition
who has been actively working to put the environmental causes of cancer more on the front burner in a time when "prevention" of breast cancer really means detection, through mammograms and genetic screening.
In such a context, this move to consumer genetic profiling is very disturbing indeed. We are on the cusp of what could be called Eugenics2.0... just as we now subject ourselves to data-surveillance in exchange for easy-to-use, networked communications tools, we can see the same happening with our genetic data. Many of us would likely supply our genetic code to corporations in exchange for knowledge about predispositions to cancer and genealogical information. And in effect, we create genetic "gated communities" where those with resources use such test results to get medicalized treatments (what else is the point of knowing if you're likely to get cancer?), while further privatizing medicine and removing any responsibility for the creation of toxic environments, leaving those without access to the testing/treatments to suffer the consequences.