New Issue of GeneWatch Magazine: Ancestry and DNA

by jeeg 17. July 2014 01:30


It’s natural to be curious about one’s family history, and curiosity is, broadly speaking, a good and healthy thing.  It’s fun to imagine discovering a surprise in your family history – and, if you find one, to imagine how it came about.  Indeed, as a source of entertainment, genetic ancestry tests are quite benign. But beyond their entertainment value, these tests are not always so innocuous, starting with the very business model of most DNA testing companies. Since few people will buy an ancestry test more than once, what will these companies do when they inevitably start to run out of customers?   


There are also some fundamental issues with the way these tests are marketed, especially when that marketing influences the way customers read their results. One of the primary themes is the conflation of DNA and self-identity, the idea that the results of an ancestry test will help you to better understand who you are.  If you find a surprising result, should you think differently of yourself? 


In the new issue of GeneWatch magazine, now available online, we bring together a diverse group of experts to explore these and other issues at the intersection of DNA ancestry tests, science, ethics and society. Rob DeSalle and Ian Tattersall of the American Museum of Natural History explore the bad science behind Nicholas Wade’s new book, A Troublesome Inheritance, which suggests a biological basis for the existence of five distinct human ‘races;’ while Diana Muir Appelbaum and Professor Paul S. Appelbaum of Columbia University dissect his claims that Jews are endowed by evolution with superior verbal and mathematical ability. Jessica Kolopenuk writes about the claim that someone can be ‘part-Native American’ – at least genetically.  Professor Jada Benn Torres and Victoria Masse each explore the relationship between distinct communities and ancestry testing.  And Professors Robert Pollack and Patricia Williams of Columbia University examine the myriad of environmental factors neglected by ancestry tests that influence the way your DNA is expressed and inherited.


These as well as topic updates on everything from the DNA ancestry testing company accused of sharing personal data to the Ecuadorian government’s protest against research scientists improperly taking blood samples from indigenous groups are in this exciting new issue.


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About GeneWatch

It is hard to keep up with the rush of information and opinion set off by the rapid growth in genetic research and technology. Without our fully realizing it, genetic technology is entering almost every area of our lives; from the genetically modified foods we eat, to the biodiversity of our eco-system, from human health and reproductive technologies to the operation of the criminal justice system. The public needs information from a trusted source.

For 30 years GeneWatch, CRG’s award-winning magazine, has filled this critical role. GeneWatch covers a broad spectrum of domestic and international issues: genetically engineered foods, biological weapons, genetic privacy and discrimination, reproductive technologies, and human cloning. GeneWatch features articles by international experts in the field, interviews of critical figures, profiles of every-day individuals impacted by developments in biotechnology, and reviews of books and movies.

GeneWatch is available by subscription for delivery or for free online. Please visit the CRG website for more information at

Since 1983, the Council for Responsible Genetics has represented the public interest and fostered public debate about the social, ethical and environmental implications of genetic technologies.  CRG is a leader in the movement to steer biotechnology toward the advancement of public health, environmental protection, equal justice, and respect for human rights.



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