The US is proposing a government-backed DNA database composed of over a million volunteers’ genetic material. RT would report in their article, “Got genes: Obama proposes genetic biobank of 1mn Americans’ DNA to fight disease,” that:
A new $215 million US government proposal would seek more than 1 million American volunteers for analysis of their genetic information in an initiative to fight disease, while developing targeted health care based on one’s DNA.
Officials hope the biobank project, announced Friday by President Barack Obama, can merge existing genetic studies with a diverse range of new volunteers to hit 1 million participants.
While this initial database is composed of volunteers, involuntary blood samples are already collected by US law enforcement agencies around the country and amassed in an existing, and ever-expanding network. Additionally, the new proposal seeks to establish “precision medicine” as a standard in medical care, implying that everyone’s DNA will eventually be required by medical practitioners to administer increasingly state-run healthcare.
Such information will undoubtedly end up in an expanded, nationwide iteration of this new proposed network.
While precision medicine is indeed a powerful tool in fighting disease and repairing injury – in fact, truly the future of medicine – those appointing themselves as its arbiter in the US have already demonstrated they cannot be trusted with such a responsibility.
RT would also note in their report that:
How the US government will ensure that individual genetic information is kept private will certainly become a point of concern for many. A government-led database system amassing genetic coding will likely face resistance in this age of a global spying regime run by the US National Security Agency (NSA) and a genetic patent system used by the likes of Monsanto to consolidate legal ownership of the natural world.
Indeed, a DNA database would be to our bodies, what the Internet was to our computers – with an NSA-like entity invading, abusing, exploiting, and manipulating not just our personal data, but the very genetic code that makes us who we are. The dangers are immense, and the abuse of genetic information has already been eagerly explored by the very special interests driving this new initiative.
The prospect of using one’s genes against them in the form of genospecific weapons was mentioned in the Neo-Conservative Project for a New American Century’s (PNAC) 2000 report titled, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” (.pdf) which stated:
The proliferation of ballistic and cruise missiles and long-range unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will make it much easier to project military power around the globe.
Munitions themselves will become increasingly accurate, while new methods of attack – electronic, “non-lethal,” biological – will be more widely available. (p.71 of .pdf)
Although it may take several decade for the process of transformation to unfold, in time, the art of warfare on air, land, and sea will be vastly different than it is today, and “combat” likely will take place in new dimensions: in space, “cyber-space,” and perhaps the world of microbes. (p.72 of .pdf)
And advanced forms of biological warfare that can “target” specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool. (p.72 of .pdf)
This targeting will require a database of genetic information – which when coupled with the NSA’s already omnipresent surveillance – will enable the growing police state to locate and target individuals with genospecific weapons with unimaginable precision – a literal “touch of death” on equal to mythological gods able to strike down their enemies at will.
How to Have the Best of Both Worlds
The race to establish a top-down healthcare system based on genetically-driven precision medicine is done with the knowledge that the democratization of technology, including that involved in biology and genetics, is accelerating toward local labs being able to reproduce or even out-compete developments made by large pharmaceutical giants. This follows the same pattern IT followed, where disruptive technology, institutions, and paradigms allowed for rapid decentralization and downsizing.
|Image: Precision medicine can precisely help us. It can also precisely hurt.|
Small groups of people or even individuals now have a platform online with which to compete against multi-million dollar media studios. Likewise, 3D printing is driving a similar revolution in manufacturing.
“Do-it-Yourself biology” (DIYbio) is now positioned to disrupt the fields of biotech, human health, and medicine.
With DIYbio, individuals and communities can manage their own genetic information, sharing it how and when they decide, and work directly on applications to alter, improve, or repair it. The decentralization of this powerful technology also will establish a balance of power. Those with malevolent intentions will be kept in check by the fact that so many more people have a vested interest in preventing the abuse of this technology.
Like in the world of IT today, backups, firewalls, and a general knowledge of “good practices” will help protect the vast majority from the abuse of emerging genetically-driven precision medicine.
Already, there is a wealth of information online regarding DIYbio – which like its counterpart in IT – maintains an open source, collaborative ethos. People, understanding that preventing the use of this technology is impossible, can begin empowering themselves with it to ensure a balance of power is struck to prevent its wide scale abuse.
Coincidentally, the proposed decentralization of the Internet by local mesh networks would also serve to build defenses for genetic information stored by individuals on such networks. Establishing and promoting the idea of moving away from all forms of highly centralized systems maintained by serial offenders of our privacy and human rights, by democratizing the very technology they seek to monopolize and use against us, is the first step in winning this new battle before it starts.