Science in Society Archive

Your Genes or Your Health

Why Genomics Won't Deliver the Health of Nations

The UK government launched a DNA BioBank in 2002 to collect DNA samples from 500 000 volunteers aged 45-69 to "capitalise on the knowledge from the Human Genome Project, which made available the genetic book of life". The hope is that by combining genetic, medical and lifestyle information, the study will unravel the origins of important diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's, and lead to improved diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

The study has been funded at £62 million so far; but this is just a small fraction of the total cost needed, which is closer to £10 billion.

How realistic are the aims of the study? Are they scientifically achievable? What about the downsides of the project, such as the threat to genetic privacy, the potential for genetic discrimination and the resurgence of eugenics?

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho says the content of the science is just as important as the context, and explains why she has referred to the human genome as a "big white elephant": a useless idol that will bankrupt the nation, robbing the public of investments that can really deliver health to the nation, equitably and effectively.

The fully referenced lecture and power point are available on CD at I-SIS online bookstore now. Details here

Article first published 03/03/05

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