Op-Ed

A mouth opens with a cotton swab being inserted.

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The University of California at Berkeley will significantly modify its plan to run genetic tests on 5,000 incoming freshmen this year as part of an educational program after state health regulators judged that the plan involved clinical and medical information that required special handling, the University said in a conference call yesterday.

After meeting with the California Department of Public Health on Wednesday and unsuccessfully making its case for the program, Berkeley agreed that it would not share the test results directly with the incoming students, but it still plans to run the tests anonymously and to conduct other related educational projects.

The tests were intended to give freshman an educational experience about medicine, science, and science policy by testing 5,000 volunteers for three particular genetic variants for metabolism of alcohol, lactose, and folic acid.

But soon after the plan was announced last spring it began to draw fire from outside groups. Critics said that the project would inevitably lead to invasions of student privacy, and that it was unethical because it amounted to the...