A biologist's perspective on DNA and race in the genomics era

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

10 Scopus citations


Public awareness of DNA has reached a tipping point. In 2008, New York Times reporter Amy Harmon won a Pulitzer Prize for her series of articles on the implications of DNA and DNA-based technology in modern society. In this same year, revenue from publicly traded biotechnology firms was nearly $90 billion. DNAbased evidence is the gold standard in courts for proving individual identity. DNA data are used with increasing frequency to explore ancestral origins, and are particularly marketed to African Americans and others who may lack records of their specific heritage. Companies have sprung up that will analyze an individual's DNA and provide ongoing reports of possible disease susceptibilities and genetic risk factors. Every month, new gene-associations for common diseases are announced in the scientific literature, and news of these discoveries is often reported in the lay press. Both genomics (the study of the structure, evolution, and function of all of the DNA in a cell) and personalized medicine (the concept that diagnostic and therapeutic decisions can be made based on analysis of specific variations in an individual's DNA) have been endorsed and heavily promoted by the pharmaceutical industry, government agencies, and human geneticists. And to protect the public, Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed into law the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act of 2008, making it illegal to discriminate against individuals in employment and health insurance based on information obtained from genetic testing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationGenetics and the Unsettled Past
Subtitle of host publicationThe Collision of DNA, Race, and History
PublisherRutgers University Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Print)9780813552545
StatePublished - 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)


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