Friday, May 21, 2010

Berkeley makes a bad call

John Hawks writes at john hawks blog about a decision by UC Berkeley to give incoming freshman the chance to send in cheek swabs for DNA analysis of 3 genes involved in regulation of the ability to metabolize alcohol, lactose and folates. The genetics professor spearheading the effort was quoted in the New York Times as saying
“The history of medical genetics has been the history of finding bad things,” he said. “But in the future, I think nutritional genomics is probably going to be the sweet spot.”
Hawks finds this whole thing very bizarre, and so do we. "I'm torn between "colossally-bad-ideas" and "university-auditions-for-big-brother"," he says. And, 
In fact, there is no credible science that supports the idea that knowing your lactase persistence genotype, alcohol metabolic genotypes, or "folate" metabolic genotypes will improve health.
This information is useless. It's a total waste of money. It gives a highly misleading picture of genetics.
Yep. And UCB is already fiscally behind the 8-ball (maybe the Chancellor should be tested for the DRD receptor to cure his investment risk-taking behavior). Will the next thing be genetic ancestry tests to determine who should be admitted from various racial groups, and who may be hiding or over-stating their ancestry for preferential treatment?  

As Hawks says, the only real thing this will do is get kids used to genomic testing for just about anything.  

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