Successive governments have believed lobbyists' claims that one day everyone would have a complete reading of their genetic make-up and the diseases they would get will be predicted and prevented. Lifestyle advice, medication and perhaps the food you eat would be tailored to personalised risk assessments, based on your genetic make-up and other information. Read why such genetic horoscopes are a dangerous myth.
The Genes and Marketing section highlights the poor predictive value of genetic tests which claim to identify people's risk of common diseases. The Genes and Health section discusses why there are reasons to doubt that these predictions will improve significantly in future, and highlights the role of conflicts of interest in promoting this idea.
Britain's police DNA database contains the largest proportion of any population in the world and other genetic databases are planned for medical research. These databases raise important issues about privacy and rights. The Privacy and Discrimination section highlights these issues, including attempts to create a back-door DNA database in the NHS by data-sharing of stored DNA and medical records with companies, the police and governments without consent.
GeneWatch would like to see:
- Regulation of genetic testing, so that it is used only in situations where it is of benefit to health and ethically justified.
- Legal safeguards to prevent genetic discrimination and erosion of privacy and civil rights.
- Public involvement in setting the health research agenda and restrictions on commercial conflicts of interest (including an end to the patenting of genes).
GeneWatch briefing: History of the Human Genome
24th June 2010
GeneWatch PR: Nobel prizewinners, tobacco funding and the human genome
24th June 2010
GeneWatch PR: Twins study obesity claims irresponsible, says GeneWatch UK
7th February 2008
GeneWatch UK response to MHRA consultation
29th October 2007
GeneWatch PR: Regulation needed to prevent human genome from becoming massive marketing scam
29th October 2007
GeneWatch PR: GeneWatch response to the Nuffield report on forensic use of DNA
18th September 2007
GeneWatch UK Submission to the Discrimination Law Review
7th August 2007
Scientific paper by GeneWatch's HM Wallace
This scientific paper looks at how data from twins and families is analysed. It concludes that the usual method is likely to exaggerate the importance of genetic differences in common diseases such as cancer. Breast cancer, for example, could often run in families because family members are exposed to the same environmental or lifestyle factors, rather than because relatives share some of their genes. If so, expensive research studies may be looking for "susceptibility genes" which do not exist or will be impossible to find.
Briefing note for MPs, MSPs, AMs & MLAs. DNA: proposed expansions of powers
26th March 2007
Briefing for Councillors and Police Authorities: Police retention of DNA
23rd February 2007
Briefing 36 A Review of 2006
25th January 2007
GeneWatch PR: Prime Minister unscientific about science: GeneWatch UK response to PM's speech on science and the economy
3rd November 2006
GeneWatch PR: New controls needed to maintain independence of science: research shows scientists fail to disclose financial interests in the journal, Nature
2nd November 2006
GeneWatch PR: Citizens or suspects? GeneWatch response to the launch of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics' consultation on police use of DNA
1st November 2006
GeneWatch PR: GeneWatch UK response to Scottish Parliament's vote on police retention of DNA.
25th May 2006
GeneWatch PR: GeneWatch response to new proposals for police retention of DNA in Scotland.
22nd May 2006
GeneWatch PR: Diets tailored to your genes are false solution to disease, says new GeneWatch report.
16th May 2006
GeneWatch PR: UK Biobank based on false assumptions and a waste of public money, says GeneWatch
15th March 2006
Briefing 35: Nutrigenomics: the future of nutrition?
1st March 2006
The new science of 'nutrigenomics' (nutritional genomics) and the idea of 'personalised nutrition' are being promoted as the solution to chronic diet-related diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Personalised nutrition includes the idea of recommending dietary advice, supplements and new 'functional foods' to healthy people who are identified as genetically susceptible to future illness using genetic tests. This briefing asks whether tailoring our diets to our individual genetic make-up, or to other individual biological differences, will be good for health.
GeneWatch PR: Misleading benefits claimed for police retention of innocent people's DNA, says new GeneWatch report
27th February 2006
GeneWatch PR: Keep Genetic Testing Private - Health and Human Rights at Risk - say leading disability, health and human rights groups
14th February 2006
- Press articles