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Saturday, May 29, 2010

No Quality Guarantee for Ancestry Testing

A task force for American Society of Human Genetics complains in a recent issue of its journal that "A major issue regarding commercial ancestry testing is that there is no quality assurance guarantee". This is far more than a technical issue. For many people, their ancestry is a matter of deep personal concern. Government benefits are also available to people who can prove that they belong to a particular group. A focus on genetic distinctions can lead to the discredited notion of separate races. Some applications could cause "palpable threats to human welfare". The whole area is so fraught that some US geneticists have called for government regulation.

The ASHG takes a more moderate stand and has recommended developing "mechanisms for promoting thoughtful and rigorous use of genetic ancestry estimation in academic research" and a national roundtable discussion of direct-to-consumer ancestry testing. "The time is now for no-holds-barred discussions among the players, particularly among scientists who must more purposefully and constructively critique one another's premises, methodologies, findings, and interpretations of findings," they say. ~ American Journal of Human Genetics, May 14

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