Why The Pentagon Is Warning US Military Not To Use Recreational Genetic Test Kits – Forbes

Posted: December 28, 2019 at 3:49 pm

US Pentagon in Washington DC.

For years, many of us in the genetics community have strongly suggested thatconsumers think long and hard beforeordering recreational genetic test kits for Christmas or any other occasion. But when thePentagon sends a stern warningto its military members, even Santa needs to listen.

Military Mission at dusk

Why would the Pentagon be worried about our military using at-home DNA kits?A memo issued to service membersfrom the Office of the Secretary of Defensestates that recreational genetic kits could give military personnel inaccurate information about their health. These inaccurate results couldhave negative professional consequences,particularly because military members, who are required to report medical problems, are not covered bytheGenetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA),which prohibits genetic discrimination by employers and health insurers.

It is already well known that thesekits should not be usedto answer serious medical questions based on a personal or family history of disease. Anyone with such a history shouldconsult a certified genetic counselorto ensure that an accurate test is ordered and interpreted correctly.The Pentagon concurs, saying they dont advise against genetic testing altogether, but recommend that service members get genetic information from a licensed professional rather than a recreational kit.

But are there other reasons the Pentagon may be warning against recreational genetic test kits? Couldthis genetic information lead to genetic surveillance, tracking, and grave privacy concerns for military personnel and others who use these kits?

China has already demonstratedthat genetic technology and research findings, intended to help people, can instead be used to harm. It is believed that the Chinese government has collected DNA samples from its citizens throughmandatory physicals to create a large databasethats being used to weed out up to one million Uighurs to be sent toconcentration camps. Although U.S. citizens, thankfully, enjoy greater protections than those in China, this example illustrates that our DNA can give insight into ancestry and ethnic origins that can be used for grave harm.

In fact, genetic data can reportedly be usedto determine how gay a person is, and if you are a 23andMe user who shared your data for research, you may have contributed to this study. Could DNA data be used to determine if military personnel may be gay? And if so, could that information beused against them?

And, of course, none of these companies can guarantee that their databases wont be hacked,as has happened in the past. Recently, GEDmatch, the genealogy company used to track down the Golden State Killer, wasacquired by a company created to work with crime labs. Other testing companies have chosen toshare their user data with the FBI.How will all of this consumer data be used, for good or evil? The truth is, we dont know.

finger print with DNA code at background

What we do know is thatundercover military agentscould likely be identified using a small sample of blood or saliva and large DNA databases. This may be true whether or not they personally have undergone recreational genetic testing,since one of their relatives probably has. For our military working undercover, this means that anonymity is likely a thing of the past.

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Why The Pentagon Is Warning US Military Not To Use Recreational Genetic Test Kits - Forbes

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