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Opinion: Trusting DNA companies shouldn't be difficult

  • 2 min to read
DNA tube

I have little to no idea of my ancestry or genetic makeup and have been tempted to try a DNA testing kit like AncestryDNA or 23andMe many times. However, I am stopped every time by what some people think is paranoia and what others think is a very legitimate excuse to be wary of sending my DNA into a lab - the things our technologies are capable of doing with a little bit of DNA can be amazing and terrifying.

Millions of people have used these DNA testing kits and the results are now extremely accurate. Using a sample of your saliva these labs are able to look at your genetic makeup. By looking at our DNA’s building blocks and individual pieces the labs are able to tell you many things.

These tests check for a variety of food sensitivities among sweet, savory and bitter foods. Test results also include information about how your body reacts to alcohol, lactose, caffeine and sleep.

Through genotyping, the labs can test health predispositions. These are traits like alzheimers, parkinsons and celiacs disease. It can also let know you if you are a carrier for diseases like sickle cell anemia and cystic fibrosis.

It can tell you certain things about your family such as where your family line originated and every documented place they lived and traveled, other people who share your DNA family line like third and fourth cousins. It claims it can even give you accurate information about your neanderthal ancestors.

I find all of this information to be very interesting and sounds like knowing some of it would be helpful in day to day life. However, it is difficult to trust a large private company with all of my genetic information and samples of my DNA sitting around technology that has the ability to replicate and edit that DNA.

I imagine that this tempting and convenient situation is difficult for a large research company or an individual researcher to pass up. Many large companies have been known to do shady things in private and were found to be untrustworthy and do not have their consumers best interests at heart.

If a company were to do anything to the DNA samples that were sent in other than what is explicitly said to their clients then all business at that company would need to be halted for investigations. If a company were to reach out to their clients and ask their permission in a clear way, no fine print, if the researchers could manipulate your DNA after testing was complete I think they would be surprised at how many people would say yes.

I think for the sake of transparency, these companies should offer tours of their labs and have hands on programs. This way people would be more comfortable giving away their DNA and may even embrace it to where it could lead to new advances in the field.