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About Race & Human Biotechnology


Racist ideas and practices have marred the history of science, with low points including the eugenics movement and medical experiments on vulnerable populations. Public awareness and social oversight are needed to ensure that these sorts of occurrences are not repeated.

Today, some geneticists and biomedical researchers are searching for genetic differences between racial groups, raising concerns that these biological variations may be used to justify inequitable outcomes that are created by social, environmental, and economic forces. However well-meaning, this could lead to gross abuse.

Genetic researchers have been particularly interested in indigenous peoples. Their reproductive insularity has led to a genetic homogeneity that can facilitate searches for correlations between specific genes and phenotypic traits. Many indigenous people object to this work for a variety of practical and ethical reasons, including the patenting and commercialization of genetic information, the lack of fully informed consent, the potential for genetic discrimination, and the disproportionate allocation of public funds to genetic research rather than to direct health care and prevention programs.



Is It Time To Stop Using Race In Medical Research?by Angus ChenNPRFebruary 5th, 2016Medical researchers often use race to define health risks. But a geneticist and a sociologist (Dorothy Roberts) say racial categories don't accurately reflect who people are, and that science has to change.
Taking race out of human geneticsby Michael Yudell, Dorothy Roberts, Rob DeSalle & Sarah TishkoffScienceFebruary 5th, 2016"We believe the use of biological concepts of race in human genetic research—so disputed and so mired in confusion—is problematic at best and harmful at worst. It is time for biologists to find a better way."
DNA Study of First Ancient African Genome Flawed, Researchers Reportby Carl ZimmerThe New York TimesFebruary 4th, 2016A head-turning study turned out to have a fundamental flaw that erased some of its most provocative conclusions.
How DNA and 'recreational genealogy' is making a case for reparations for slavery by Steven W. ThrasherThe GuardianFebruary 3rd, 2016Alondra Nelson, academic who was at the forefront of Afrofuturism, has a new book on how DNA can help descendants of slaves seeking compensation.
A Conversation With No Más Bebés Filmmakers Virginia Espino and Renee Tajima-Peńaby Tina VasquezRH Reality CheckFebruary 1st, 2016Get a glimpse into the making of No Más Bebés, the documentary that looks into the sterilization of Mexican women during the late 1960s and early 1970s in Los Angeles County.
‘No Más Bebés’: Documentary Highlights History of Forced Sterilizations in L.A.by Sonali KolkhatkarTruthDigJanuary 21st, 2016The film covers a grisly era of California history—the forced sterilization of untold numbers of poor, mostly Latino, Spanish-speaking women in the 1960s and 70s.
‘Races of Mankind’ Sculptures, Long Exiled, Return to Display at Chicago’s Field Museumby Jennifer SchuesslerThe New York TimesJanuary 20th, 2016The bronzes, unveiled in 1933 as "the finest racial portraiture the world has yet seen," were banished to storage in 1969 as relics of discredited ideas about human difference.
Could DTC Genome Testing Exacerbate Research Inequities?by Christine Aicardi, Maria Damjanovicova, Lorenzo Del Savio, Federica Lucivero, Maru Mormina, Maartje Niezen & Barbara PrainsackThe Hastings Center ReportJanuary 20th, 2016The expansion of 23andMe’s database as a resource for genetic science may aggravate existing biases in disease research, leading to impoverished knowledge and exacerbated inequalities.
Jordan Middle School, other schools now up for renamingby Elena KadvanyPalo Alto WeeklyJanuary 13th, 2016Middle school students and their parents are objecting to their school being named for Stanford University founding president David Starr Jordan, because of his involvement in the eugenics movement.
California’s Proposed Budget Upholds ‘Racist, Sexist, Classist’ Policyby Tina VasquezRH Reality CheckJanuary 11th, 2016The Maximum Family Grant is designed to discourage low-income mothers from having children.
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