DNA sequencing, DIY style: "vigilance could be required on both legal and ethical issues"

A briefing paper from the European Parliament's Scientific Foresight unit asks a question that raises all manner of legal, ethical and philosophical questions: "As DNA sequencing technologies continuously improve and become less costly, what if we all soon possessed our personal, smart DNA sequencers and apps to analyse our DNA?"


The paper remarks - with considerable understatement - that were personal DNA sequencers to become "as common as smartphones, vigilance could be required on both legal and ethical issues" (emphasis added).

What if consumers could use devices to sequence DNA? (pdf):

"Genomic sequencing unveils very rich data and raises considerable legal, security and private as well as societal and ethical issues, touching upon basic human rights. As genomic technologies are evolving rapidly, it is desirable that regulation match this pace and that adequate safeguards are put in place. It is also important to raise societal awareness about this technology, capable of revealing people's identities, and as such open to misuse...

In a future where personal DNA sequencers may be as common as smartphones, vigilance could be required on both legal and ethical issues. Genomic information is difficult to protect; we leave traces of our DNA, such as hair and fingerprints, wherever we go. Therefore, attention should be paid to data security, data ownership and sharing. Blockchain technologies may help to address some of these issues. Ethical issues such as individual autonomy and equality of access, as well as anti-discrimination laws and compensation for people affected by data abuse should also be considered."


Image: Giulio Lombardo, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 

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