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Race to the Finish: Identity and governance in an age of genomics

"The Human Genome Diversity Project had a short and troubled life. The aim was to sample and preserve DNA from 'isolated indigenous populations' before social changes rendered them useless for the purpose of answering questions about human evolution. … The project's leaders were well-intentioned and had impeccable anti-racist credentials. So why did their effort draw unremitting hostility from groups representing indigenous peoples, some physical anthropologists and others? [Indigenous groups] disliked being thought of as a resource, took umbrage at the assumption that they were vanishing, mistrusted the project leaders' motives, especially in regard to patent issues and, in general, did not see what was in it for them. … In trying to respond to criticism and build legitimacy for the project … anthropologists and bioethicists were brought into the fold. … In time, indigenous-rights organisations, African-Americans and Native Americans were also invited to join the discussion, raising some thorny questions about the identity of groups and who was authorised to speak for them. … Could the project have been saved? Reardon believes that it might have been had discussion gone much deeper, with sustained attention to questions of the nature of scientific knowledge and its relation to power."

Link to full article in Nature