Tougher controls sought for DNA ancestry testing
BERKELEY — As the popularity of take-home DNA kits to trace ancestry or calculate the risk for serious medical conditions grows, there is an increasingly critical need for federal oversight of “direct-to consumer” genetic testing, as well as of the use of DNA samples for research, according to researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and several other academic institutions.
In the past year, scientists, sociologists and bioethicists, among others, have come to agree that the technology of these direct-to-consumer tests, which run between $100 and $1,000 apiece, is problematic and that the test results can be misleading and lead to problems including skewed ethnic data and questionable membership claims to Native American tribes.
But while organizations such as the American Society of Human Genetics have issued guidelines to curb the unintended consequences and misuses of DNA testing, federal agencies need to step in and help shape a “gold standard” in genetic ancestry testing, according to a policy paper published in the July 3 issue of the journal Science and coauthored by researchers from UC Berkeley, Stanford University, the University of Texas, University of Wisconsin and New York University.
“We encourage regulatory agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control to help set industry standards for responsible and accountable practices in genetic ancestry testing,” said coauthor Kimberly TallBear, assistant professor of science, technology and environmental policy at UC Berkeley.
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