Iceland’s DNA: The World’s Most Precious Genes?

City of Reykjavik, Iceland

BBC News has an interesting article by Emma Jane Kirby describing a quandary within the country. deCODE Genetics, an Icelandic company, is asking all residents to donate DNA samples. About one-third of the country’s residents have done so and many others plan to do so. However, a minority of the people are questioning the wisdom and the privacy issues involved.

“In Iceland we have never had a proper debate about whether individuals who give samples should be notified if they have a risk of cancer for example. Who would want to know? Who wouldn’t?” asks Salvor Nordal, director of the Ethics faculty at the University of Iceland.

Iceland also has a database containing the genealogy of the entire nation dating back 1,100 years. First settlers arrived in the 870s – 60-80% of them were of Nordic stock from Norway, the rest mainly Celtic. Combining the database with DNA samples of present-day residents presumably will produce one of the most powerful DNA tools available. deCODE’s geneticists can use computational methods to calculate the odds of whether an individual carries a particular genetic variant without directly sequencing their DNA, if it knows the DNA of that individual’s relatives.

You can read the full story at http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-27903831.

One Comment

Aaaaah, yes. Here is precisely the reason Icelanders should keep profit-mongering American corporations OUT of the loop for collecting DNA samples. It’s bad enough so many corporations have taken over US government functions. Now they’re encroaching in foreign countries…, and Amgen is one of the worst pharmaceutical corporations (Google the phrase ‘ lawsuits against Amgen ‘ and you can read the info for yourselves).

Profit-mongering American corporations are precisely the reason I’ve not had my DNA tested for ancestral purposes. I know perfectly well they’d change some kind of rules or buy our Congress Critters off to get them to change laws to allow for corporate invasions of privacy worse than what they already have done by spying on us. I don’t want to contribute even one penny of profit to the American corporations who have done so much damage to so many people and animals and the environment while their CEOs have never been jailed for their many crimes, and even fines have been low compared to the real costs to humans, animals, and the environment.

The quote from the article linked to:

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-27903831

Unlike the UK’s Biobank, which is a charitable and government-funded venture, deCODE is a private enterprise. Having struggled financially, the firm is now owned by the American biotech giant, Amgen. The thought that a foreign company might profit from their private information has made many Icelanders baulk.

“It makes me very nervous,” journalist Alda Sigmundsdottir admits. “I’m thinking the DNA of 100,000 or so Icelanders is probably quite a valuable commodity for a multi-national corporation. If a university, say the University of Iceland, was conducting the research and the findings were available to academic institutions all over the world, I wouldn’t hesitate to give a sample. That’s how it should be done. Not by a private company using it to profit.”

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