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Genetic ancestral testing cannot deliver on its promise, study warns
Date:10/18/2007

Berkeley -- For many Americans, the potential to track one's DNA to a specific country, region or tribe with a take-home kit is highly alluring. But while the popularity of genetic ancestry testing is rising - particularly among African Americans - the technology is flawed and could spawn unwelcome societal consequences, according to researchers from several institutions nationwide, including the University of California, Berkeley.

"Because race has such profound social, political and economic consequences, we should be wary of allowing the concept to be redefined in a way that obscures its historical roots and disconnects from its cultural and socioeconomic context," says the article to be published today (Thursday, Oct. 18) in the journal Science.

The article recommends that the American Society of Human Genetics and other genetic and anthropological associations develop policy statements that make clear the limitations and potential dangers of genetic ancestry testing.

Among the potentially problematic byproducts of widespread genetic ancestry testing: questionable claims of membership to Native American tribes for financial or other benefits; patients asking doctors to take ancestry tests into consideration when making medical decisions; and skewed census data due to people changing ethnicity on government forms.

Moreover, many Americans are emotionally invested in finding an ancestral homeland, and thus vulnerable to a test that can produce mixed results at best and false leads at worse. "This search for a homeland is particularly poignant for African Americans, who hope to recapture a history stolen by slavery," the study points out.

"It can give them false hope," said UC Berkeley sociology professor Troy Duster, who coauthored the study with researchers from the University of Texas, Harvard University, New York University, Yale University, Wellesley College, Arizona State University, University of North Caroli
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Contact: Yasmin Anwar
yanwar@berkeley.edu
510-643-7944
University of California - Berkeley
Source:Eurekalert

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