At home genetics tests sold a shit ton over this year’s holiday season. Consumers/Americans loved the idea of finding out where they’re from. I was tempted as well. There’s no denying it. My fear of having no real ancestry, of having been cobbled into existence by industrious capitalists, could be put to rest. It’d also be nice to know where to have my ashes sent.
DNA is, at its roots, information. And no information is safe in this country. Social Security codes are swiped on a daily basis. The only reason I was notified of my identity theft was because six credit card applications were denied due to my outstanding student loan debt and even more impressive defaults. So if identities can so easily be swiped, why the fuck would anyone send their DNA out into the world when it’s already safely wrapped up in your body juices? It should be obvious that not every Tom, Dick, and Sally should be able to get their greedy fingers on your genetic juices.
DNA 101. Watch Jurassic Park for the cliff notes. Remember the tram ride explanation? DNA is your genetic code. Gross over-simplification but it serves the point. It’s a chain of information, herculean fucking emphasize on information, that is unique to you. But in being unique to you, it also includes information on your social web of uniqueness. Namely, genetic information from your past generations and information that can be extrapolated to find close relatives.
This is the Information Age. Even further, we live in the age of non-consensual trading of private information. Companies pay Facebook and Google money for your browsing habits so they can try to persuade you to deep throat their products. This is a coercive act, one full of deception. You would assume there would be safeguards for the American people to protect us from the rapacious, little pecker fingers of companies on our oh-so-human-juicy-juice but you’d be wrong. Sure you can inform companies such as AncestryDNA that you’d like private information such as your name and address stricken from their records so that you’re just another anonymous strain of biological code but unfortunately, unlucky gene pig, that’s kind of impossible. Yaniv Erlich, a MIT researcher, found that locating the surname of a random selection of anonymous donors was as simple as locating a specific stuttering, genome cluster and opening a search engine. Moral? Try to take your name off the test tube, still doesn’t matter. Someone will find your ass.
Information brokering is the new form of capital trade. Advertising is intrusive and irritating but it is in no way life threatening. But what would you say to insurance companies having the ability to approve you for coverage based off of the genetic likelihood of a disease? People already are denied coverage based off of preexisting conditions; what if your genetic code could be considered a preexisting condition? At the moment, there is legislation keeping health insurance companies from accessing and making decisions from your genetic tests. But please, reader, do not assume this applies to all insurance companies. You can be denied life insurance based off of your genetic likelihood of disease. This is a happy hop-and-fucking-skip away from completely empowering an industry that already works their asses off to deny coverage and, once you are covered, tries to weasel their way out of holding up their end of the bargain. Insurance, at its best, is gambling with the piss pot of capitalism and now the odds will be slipping even further and further into their favor.
But this is all in the name of science! Our government will protect us! At its best, this is naivety and at its worst, delusional. Scientists are a devious bunch indeed. Attach pharmaceutical companies and real questions must be asked. Who is to hold whom accountable? And yes, one could say that I am merely paranoid but I have not forgotten the horrors of Tuskegee, the bastard experiment that watched hundreds of blacks die of syphilis merely to catalog the long term effects of the disease. No, the government did not watch our backs in that horrific scene. The private sector was left to its own devices and put black bodies into the ground for the sake of curiosity. Nor have I forgotten Henriatta Lacks, whose uninsured and dying family struggle to pay their mounting doctor and hospital bills as we all profit off of the research done to her immortal cervical cancer cultures. Taken without her or her families’ knowledge, in case you were wondering.
The situation cannot be this dire, you say. These are the ramblings of conspiracy theorists, human decency has progressed since these atrocities. But they haven’t. Pharmaceutical companies still price gauge and the majority of third party partnerships with Ancestry DNA happen to specifically be with big Pharma companies. What is the point of these horror tales, why the screaming and wild murmurings?
When you become merely information, you will be traded. And there is no one looking out for you. No one at all.
It is that simple. These companies will not tell you this. It’ll be in the fine print and we can all be honest with ourselves, we didn’t bother to read the terms of agreements for our iPhone updates. These fuckers will plunder your genes, you can be certain of this fact. We should not so easily hand over the code of our humanity. Ultimately, who is deciding which third party companies get access to our genetic information? It as a nebulous web to trace. But we at least know these companies have money. And we know the quality of folks in this country who have amassed large sums of wealth through business. One of them postures in the oval office, spitting hatred and stupidity that has tangible consequences. And he’s giving tax breaks to corporations as if they were human and penalizing the middle class as if they were snotty indentured servants. Yes, we have indeed come such a long god damn way! So no, throw my ashes in the direction of Africa. Fuck where they land. Just make sure the capitalist pigs don’t get their mittens on my juices.