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About Race & Human Biotechnology

Racist ideas and practices have marred the history of science, with low points including the eugenics movement and medical experiments on vulnerable populations. Public awareness and social oversight are needed to ensure that these sorts of occurrences are not repeated.

Today, some geneticists and biomedical researchers are searching for genetic differences between racial groups, raising concerns that these biological variations may be used to justify inequitable outcomes that are created by social, environmental, and economic forces. However well-meaning, this could lead to gross abuse.

Genetic researchers have been particularly interested in indigenous peoples. Their reproductive insularity has led to a genetic homogeneity that can facilitate searches for correlations between specific genes and phenotypic traits. Many indigenous people object to this work for a variety of practical and ethical reasons, including the patenting and commercialization of genetic information, the lack of fully informed consent, the potential for genetic discrimination, and the disproportionate allocation of public funds to genetic research rather than to direct health care and prevention programs.

What 2,500 Sequenced Genomes Say about Humanity’s Futureby Lizzie WadeWiredSeptember 30th, 2015In light of geneticists’ attempts to find roots of racial health disparities, genomics has gone from being a “race-free” science to being a “race-positive” one.
Born that way? ‘Scientific’ racism is creeping back into our thinking. Here’s what to watch out for.by W. Carson Byrd & Matthew W. HugheyWashington PostSeptember 28th, 2015Two recent studies and a review of current events show the media and white communities embracing the idea of racial genetic differences in order to avoid confronting the history of systemic oppression of racialized groups.
Can 23andMe have it all?by Kelly ServickScienceSeptember 25th, 2015Amid 30 recent deals with biotech and pharma companies, 23andMe hired Genentech retiree Richard Scheller who plans to hire 25 scientists in the next year to begin drug development based off the direct-to-consumer genomic database.
Seeing Others: Is Racial Prejudice Innate or Learned?[Cites CGS's Osagie Obasogie]by Chelsea LeuCalifornia MagazineSeptember 24th, 2015UC Hastings professor and CGS Senior Fellow Osagie Obasogie explains that the way blind people understand race supports the idea that the perception of race is learned.
Prosecutor backs expanded DNA testingby Evan AllenBoston GlobeSeptember 17th, 2015A new Massachusetts bill would allow police officers to obtain genetic material at the point of felony arrest — creating what Justice Scalia calls the "genetic panopticon."
In Its Focus on Genetics and Race, Global Newspaper Coverage of Athletics is Far from “Post-Racial”by Matthew W. Hughey & Devon R. Goss USAPP Blog [London School of Economics and Political Science]September 10th, 2015A study of English-language newspaper articles about race, sport, and genetics finds a sharp reemergence of scientific racism.
Biotech Imagination: Whose Future is this?by Jessica CussinsSeptember 8th, 2015A feature in PLOS Biology highlights insider predictions about the next ten years in genetics and genomics with unanimous optimism. But whose future is this?
Kuwait's War on ISIS and DNAby Dawn FieldOxford University Press BlogSeptember 3rd, 2015Amid other national genomic projects, Kuwait's mandatory DNA collection is the first use of DNA testing at the national-level for security reasons, counter-terrorism.
Giant study poses DNA data-sharing dilemmaby Sara ReardonNature NewsSeptember 1st, 2015As the US Precision Medicine Initiative pushes forward, whether to provide sequenced genetic information to biobank donors is an unresolved question of ethics, privacy, and medical utility.
Blind people can be racist, too, study says[Cites CGS's Osagie Obasogie]by Carina StorrsCNNAugust 30th, 2015A new study suggests blind people don't think about the physical attributes of race, but Osagie Obasogie disputes the idea that blind people enter social interactions with a blank slate.
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