Since they hit the online market in 2007, direct-to-consumer genetic tests have been both high profile (Time named them its “invention of the year” in 2008) and highly controversial (in 2010, for example, the US Government Accountability office investigated the industry and issued a damning report).
Now a new report on direct-to-consumer genetic testing (DTC GT) by a group of scientific and medical advisors to European Union policy makers offers a blunt evaluation:
On the whole, DTC GT has little clinical value at present and, on occasion, has potential to be harmful. We would not wish to encourage EU citizens to use DTC GT at present.
The report was issued by the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) and the Federation of European Academies of Medicine (FEAM), organizations formed to promote cooperation among the scientific academies of EU member states. According to EASAC’s website, it provides “a means for the collective voice of European science to be heard.”
The new report shares much of the wariness about DTC gene testing that has been expressed by other independent critics, including the Center for Genetics and Society. It “suggests especial caution about DTC GT in several specific respects,” including its use to test for serious genetic disorders, for prenatal screening, and by people who have disease symptoms. Genetic tests for these purposes should be done in a medical context rather than in a consumer mode.
In addition, the report says that “nutrigenomic testing should be discouraged because of its association with the sale of nutrient products of little or no proven value” and advises that “testing of samples from minors and third parties should not be permitted.”
The report has not attracted much media attention either in the US or the EU, and only a minimal amount of commentary. The first response of gene-test enthusiast Daniel MacArthur was ridicule – a tweet saying “European report basically argues DTC genetic testing shouldn’t be used if it might be medically useful.” More balanced coverage in the genomics-oriented blogosphere can be found at Pharmacogenomics Reporter [registration required].
Previously on Biopolitical Times:
Posted in Bioethics, Marcy Darnovsky's Blog Posts, Other Countries, Personal genomics, The United Kingdom
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