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Genetic Genealogy at the ASHG Meeting in Philadelphia

The 58th annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics is currently being held in Philadelphia.  Today at 10:00AM there will be a session specifically about genetic genealogy entitled “The Social, Ethical, and Biomedical Implications of Ancestry Testing: Exploring New Terrain.”  From the abstract:

“What is genetic ancestry and how does it relate to race and ethnicity? The development of increasingly cost effective genomic sequencing technologies and public interest in genetic ancestry has led to a dramatic flourishing of direct-to-consumer products and new approaches to biomedical research. In this session, panelists define the contours of this emerging landscape and explore the commercial, biomedical, social and ethical implications of this burgeoning category of genomic application. Panelists consider the following questions: What genetic ancestry information is available to consumers? How is genetic ancestry used in biomedical research? What implications do genetic approaches to ancestry have on social identity? What ethical and policy issues must be addressed in this changing landscape? Panelists provide perspectives from industry, medicine, cultural studies, and bioethics.”

The moderator of this session is Sandra Soo-Jin Lee of Stanford University.  The panelists include Joanna Mountain who will talk about ‘New dimensions for direct-to-consumer genetic ancestry testing’; Kimberly Tallbear who will talk about ‘The genetic construction of indigeneity’; and Esteban González Burchard who will talk about ‘The importance of ancestry testing and genetics in biomedical research’.  Additionally, the moderator will discuss ‘Racing forward: The ethics of ancestry testing.’

Comments:

I don’t like the mixing of the controversial phrase “direct-to-consumer” with genetic genealogy.  Of course it’s direct-to-consumer, who else would the results go to?  Should your doctor or genetic counselor review your genetic genealogy results?  That would be a ridiculous restriction.

The panelists will also be discussing the “ethical and policy issues” in this changing landscape.  As always, I believe that education, not more government regulation, is the answer to these ethical and policy issues.

Blaine Bettinger

Intellectual property attorney, genealogist, and author of The Genetic Genealogist since 2007

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