Thursday, May 20, 2010

Where DNA testing is taking us...

I have opined that cheap, ubiquitous DNA testing (once retailers get over the heebie-jeebies about selling them) will produce some odd consequences.  I think we are getting there and would offer these two events as evidence.
The university said it would analyze the samples, from inside students’ cheeks, for three genes that help regulate the ability to metabolize alcohol, lactose and folates.Those genes were chosen not because they indicate serious health risks but because students with certain genetic markers may be able to lead healthier lives by drinking less, avoiding dairy products or eating more leafy green vegetables. [More]

I don't know if this test results would be useful for identification in a student assault case, for example.  But if getting a swab becomes just another college entrance requirement, we are looking at a pretty solid ID program.

Another slightly more arcane use of DNA testing is proposed to deal with an equally important social problem, dog poop.  And the owners who don't take care of it.
Someone of the canine persuasion has been leaving his business all over the ritzy Scarlett Place condominium near the Inner Harbor. And the condo board says the only way to find the culprit: mandated DNA tests for every dog in the building.
"We pay all this money, and we're walking around stepping in dog poop. We bring guests over and this is what they're greeted by. It's embarrassing for me as a dog owner and as someone who lives in this building," says Steve Frans, the board member who raised the idea of hiring a lab to identify which of the dozens of dogs in the luxury building is behind the droppings. [More]
I will forego all the too-easy punchlines here to merely point out this is how science becomes interwoven into our lives - it becomes harmless-seeming to the point of ridicule and sarcasm.

In the same light, it also makes inroads toward acceptability because like now, we can't seem to work up much sense of threat or fear about such testing.  But like Facebook, it is one more slight shifting of the line between what is private and what is public.

1 comment:

buffalobill said...

It is 1984...but it has taken until 2010 to get here. This manifestation of loss of privacy is sneaking up on us. The proponents of DNA testing can list several good reasons for doing routine DNA testing. Identifying kidnapped children, improved health care being a couple of those reasons.

But the fact remains that most children won't be kidnapped, most people's health care will be satisfactory without it. Routine DNA testing should cause as much outcry or more than the ubiquitous Facebook! Soon I am afraid 'privacy' will be a concept studied in schools, but not something of which anyone will have any personal knowledge.