Being adopted I have often questioned my roots. I have always had the questions about my traits, which ones are genetic and which ones are unique. Since becoming a legal adult I have been on a couple national and international adoption listings. I get really weird mail and e-mail on occasion with different ways to look into my genetic paths of the past. I have always had two concerns with being adopted which are my own health questions with an unknown family history as we all those same questions for my children and grandchildren. Over the years I have spent countless (1000s and 1000s) hours doing records research, phone calls, letter writing, and door knocking, all with few or poor results. It was a challenge for me personally because I didn’t actually want to know who my biological family was, I just wanted to know family medical history for my own peace of mind. Due to the conditions of my adoption back in 1968, my adoption records were sealed only to be opened by my biological mother. It took much time and a fair amount of court costs to have that over-ruled and have my adoption records un-sealed. In the end it was actually a fruitless effort since 99% of the included information was indeed false. However, there was one vital piece of information that was included, and that was her social security number. I was able to use her social security number to track her down. I will leave it there as this is getting into another story for another day. So, the other day I get a letter from a company called 23andMe announcing an opportunity for myself to be genetically tested for multiple reasons. I called the provided phone number and had a chat with a very nice receptionist who explained that my name was drawn from a national seeking adoption information listing. I was told that the genetic information would provide me a genetic history which could be used to further map my existence. Want to talk about a “WOW” and “WTF” moment all rolled up tightly together, this was it.
After I hung up the phone I was still a little stunned and really didn’t know what to think. I began a conversation with my wife to review what we already knew about “me” and what more we could want to know. Starting with the simple things I knew we remembered that the date on my birth certificate had been altered to read the 7th of November when it was actually found to be the 6th of November. Why this was done has been a controversial question I have had for many years, but after receiving my original “original” from the hospital I was born in I let it rest. As far as genetic history I had found out that my heritage is “Viking” and can be traced back a good 900 years with some really cool family heirloom documents, crests, flags, and so forth. It has been interesting to find things related to these documents and symbols over the years. I was also able to produce some nice results from Ancestry.com which confirmed allot of what I was told as family “folklore” and so forth. It has always been an interesting ride when researching. It has been so interesting that all three of my children have done anything from family tree projects to full on heritage research essays over the years. Now, what does all of this has to do with anything at all? It’s simple, from my point of view, because the resources, as scarce as they may be, are out there if you know what you are looking for and sometimes even if you don’t know what you are looking for. My wife and I decided to explore what we could find out about 23andMe and what that company was all about. There have been many, and I mean many, articles, papers, reports, and stories written about this company. Most of what we read all ended up with them talking about the morality of what this company does for a living. Why? Recently the company received a patent on a product that could allow parents to calculate “traits” of their future offspring. It’s been called a Personalized Genomics Revolution by some since what it allows a person to do is unlike anything in the past. Now, I’m not going to do a run down on everything ever said or what others think about the company. What I want to do is explore what this patent, which the company says it will never use, has to say and/or do with our future as human beings.
The first question I would have is why patent a process that you promise will never ever be used? What’s the point? Is it solely a proprietary issue? Is it because the research and technology industry is so competitive? These are questions which I could not find the answers to. Had I not had contact with this company would I be asking these questions or would I have the questions at all? Good question. We here it in the news, read it in the papers, see the articles in magazines, here it from other people, and read it on the internet about the advancements in genetics and what is theorized to be able to be done. There are many claims being made by the scientists of the world and they have their critics as well as their fans. One thing I find interesting is that critics claim the scientists are “playing God” and screwing with mother nature in their research. I find that amusing on so many levels its unbelievable. First, what does “playing God” really mean? Aren’t we talking about science here? We are not talking theologies, theories, or myths so how can God even come into the equation. I’m not knocking people and their beliefs but I personally believe that God and science are two completely different topics altogether. Past my own opinions I think that genetic research has led to many great discoveries in the scientific and medical world. The human race has moved forward because of scientific discovery and will continue to improve ourselves as time goes by. But what is the cost? What do we lose in the process? Will we skip steps in human evolution that should take thousands to millions of years? One thing I do disagree with, and I’m pretty firm on this, is using science and medicine to alter how a baby is created. The mixing, splicing, and choosing the genes of a baby in a pre-pregnancy soup really bothers me. We do not want a generation of science experiment children which will spend their whole lives being examined and observed to verify if the scientists were right or not. But, wait. it’s already being done in the plant and animal kingdom isn’t it? We already ingest in one way, form, or fashion, the science behind our food and drinks already. Now, the line into human testing can be crossed. Is it ethical? Is it moral? Is it righteous? Is it needed?
So, what would happen if I purchased a “DIY Kit” and sent a sample of my DNA into to be tested, categorized, localized, and a genetic trail to be created? How would this benefit me? Would the information learned, if any, be beneficial to me? I think I will be passing on the opportunity. I think there are things about “ME” that might be better left unknown. I think I will pass so the off chance my DNA isn’t misused somehow by “accident”. I will leave it right there. Some other information I found interesting is that the past price for the kit was $299.00 and has been reduced to $99.00 in hopes to get more of the general public to participate. Something very interesting about Anne Wojcicki is she is the wife of the co-founder of Google, Sergey Brin, who recently gave an investment of $50M ($50,000,000.00). Coincidence? I wonder if it was a personal check or a Google company check because the press release doesn’t actually say. If it is a Google investment does that mean that Google will somehow play a role in the future of genetic tracking? Or is Sergey Brin just protecting his wife’s investment. Interesting sometimes to look where the money comes from and why. Except the “Why” rarely surfaces it’s ugly little head. Hey, I’m not knocking it, if one has the means the by all means do with your money what you please. But high profile people should expect that Joe Public just might a basic question or three.