Who Owns Your DNA? (YOU DON’T)


Hey there, welcome to Life Noggin! You likely consider your body your property,
right? You live in it, you choose where it goes and
what it does, so you probably think that you own it. Well, you might be surprised to learn that
the law isn’t entirely clear whether you do own your body. Apparently, you can’t be you and own you
at the same time, which is really quite confusing. Things don’t get any less confusing when
we look at your genetic makeup, your DNA. Who owns that? DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the genetic
information that dictates how our bodies grow, function, and reproduce. Humans share 99.9% of the same DNA but a peek
at your specific sequences can reveal information about your health, personality, family history,
and even your relationships. Each human’s complete DNA sequence is different
than anyone else’s.[b] It’s incredibly personal and experts have said that your genetic
information is the most valuable thing you have. Just like your social security number, home
address, and credit card info, this information should be guarded carefully. But, some of you humans are totally fine giving
your genetic information away to corporations, research groups, and other third party organizations. So far, 12 million of you have sent away samples
of your DNA to consumer genetic testing companies to find out information about your own genetic
makeup. But if you’re like most people and don’t
read the fine print, you probably have no idea the rights you gave away. By agreeing to the terms and conditions and
sending off a vial of your saliva, you’re giving these groups the right to your DNA. You’re allowing them to sell this information,
send it to research groups, and do any number of things thanks to some incredibly broad
wording of their fine-print. And if your genetic info leads to some wild,
medical breakthrough, you’ll get nothing. Which is pretty rude if you ask me. So does this mean they own your DNA? Do you own it? People, organizations, and judges have been
debating who owns DNA for years. But after a court ruling in 2013, it was decided
that DNA cannot be patented under US law, which means no one can own someone else’s
DNA. And it’s not even clear if you own your
DNA, which also contains your family’s DNA. Legally speaking, natural phenomenons and
laws of nature cannot be trademarked or solely claimed. This is the same reason why someone can’t
patent the element gold and claim that all gold on Earth is theirs. So while these companies can’t own your
DNA, they can own the sample you gave and the information they derive from it and preeeetty
much send it wherever they want. And I bet there are a lot of hands you wouldn’t
want your genetic makeup to fall into. For example, while it’s technically illegal
for employers and health insurers to discriminate based on genetics, it would be difficult to
prove that’s why they fired you or didn’t take you on as a customer. A potential employer might see that you have
a family history of cancer and choose another candidate just to avoid the hassle and you’d
never know. And unfortunately, the legal future of your
right to genetic privacy is unclear. So while no one may own your DNA right now,
who knows if that’ll still be the case ten, twenty years from now. Have you done a DNA test? Did you know what rights you were giving up? Let us know in the comments.

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