Viewpoint: Genetics research was supposed to change human health. Is it time to reconsider investments in the field?

st jude pediatric genome project pop science
Credit: St. Jude

Since its birth 30 years ago, proponents of the Human Genome Project have promised that genetics research would yield untold health benefits for all of us. Indeed, in 1990, James Watson asserted that failing to move the project ahead and usher in those benefits as fast as possible would be “essentially immoral.”

The COVID crisis, however, offers a supremely unwished-for opportunity to scrutinize the proponents’ promise, and to recalibrate the hope and money we invest in genetics. Such scrutiny and recalibration can be small steps on the path to fulfilling our nation’s professed commitment to the health of all of us.

[W]e continue to overinvest our hope in genetics, notwithstanding that with every passing year we understand in more detail why genetics can’t deliver as much as it once promised. Recently, the geneticist Francis Collins, who once led the Human Genome Project and who now directs all 27 of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), said to the Wall Street Journal, with admirable frankness and breathtaking understatement, “The genetic architecture of common diseases is turning out to be more elaborate than we might have guessed.” That is, because of the fabulous complexity of the pathways from genes to the sorts of common diseases (like diabetes) that make people more vulnerable to a virus like COVID, genetics has not been able to offer the sorts of health benefits that geneticists envisioned 30 years ago.

Related article:  Proxima Centauri b: Why Earth's cosmic neighbor could be suitable for life

Read the original post

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
Video: Test everyone – Slovakia goes its own way to control COVID

Video: Test everyone – Slovakia goes its own way to control COVID

As Europe sees record coronavirus cases and deaths, Slovakia is testing its entire adult population. WSJ's Drew Hinshaw explains how ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
globalmethanebudget globalcarbonproject cropped x

Infographic: Cows cause climate change? Agriculture scientist says ‘belching bovines’ get too much blame

A recent interview by Caroline Stocks, a UK journalist who writes about food, agriculture and the environment, of air quality ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...
favicon

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend