Daily Archives: May 9, 2011

Who Owns Your DNA? the boundaries between bioprospecting and biopiracy

The Q’eros People of Peru claim that they were not consulted by the United States-based Genographic Project and they have not provided informed consent for their blood samples to be collected….Here is their an excerpt for their position

“The Genographic Project is a large scale genetic study that seeks to collect DNA samples of hundreds of thousands of people from around the world, particularly indigenous people. By sequencing and comparing the DNA samples, the Project purports to be able to map human migration over history, one of many purposes to which the DNA samples may be put to use.

The computing giant IMB is the principle corporate sponsor of the Project. Key Project scientists are employed by the US National Geographic Society. Members of the Project’s “Genographic Consortium” also include researchers at 14 other universities, institutes and a DNA sequencing company. The Project planned to end DNA collections in 2010, but it still collecting indigenous peoples’ DNA for reasons that have yet to be publicly explained.

The Genographic Project was constructed and is steered by architects of the Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP) and their protégés. It is an uncomfortable heritage. In the 1990s, the HGDP’s plan to collect blood from indigenous people proved so controversial that it earned the popular name ‘The Vampire Project.’

In 1997, the HGDP was effectively terminated when its efforts to obtain US government funding were rejected due to ethical shortcomings.4 The Genographic Project claims to have solved some of the HGDP’s problems; but its own transparency is lacking. Because it is privately funded, there are few requirements for public disclosure of its activities, and oversight by government and civil society organizations is highly curtailed.

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In early April, Asociación ANDES received word that seven researchers from the Genographic Project will arrive in Peru in the first week of May to collect human DNA samples from the Q’eros people. This information is not widely known in the Cusco Region because the US-based Genographic Project did not approach local or regional authorities about their plan, rather, the Project hired a local tour guide and sent a cursory one page notification of their upcoming visit to people in a Q’ero town.

The Q’eros are an isolated indigenous group who live in a rural province of the Cusco Region. They are renowned for their shamanic knowledge and self-proclaimed identity as ‘The Last Incas.’… The Q’eros were not consulted beforehand about the DNA collection which, they have been informed, will take place following a presentation on May 7th (2011).”

For more Genographic Project Hunts the Last Incas

See also Ethical Framework of the Genographic Project

Community of Q’eros