In the April 16, 2005, daily edition of this newsletter, Ann Turner wrote about the Genographic Project, a major undertaking by National Geographic and others to chart the migration paths of our ancestors by using markers on the Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). You can read that article at http://eogn.typepad.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2005/04/national_geogra.html. However, some organizations are not enthused about the project. The Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism has even asked indigenous people to boycott the project and its sponsors.
"We're not in the blood-selling business," said Debra Harry, the group's executive director. "We don't need this speculative information -- we already know where we come from." Harry questions the many references to how the Genographic Project will help indigenous peoples. "I can think of better ways to help us," she said. She doesn't think informed consent is possible with some of the very vulnerable native communities who likely won't understand the ramifications or implications of the project.
The whole project is fraught with ethical issues, said Harry. Similar issues killed a similar venture, the Human Genome Diversity Project, ten years ago.
"What's to stop some company from taking information from the Genographic database and using it for commercial purposes without compensation to the original donors?" she asked.