In their "Bring Your Genes to Cal" program, over 5,000 incoming freshmen and transfer students will be asked to donate a swab of their DNA for analysis.
This program is both better and worse than it sounds. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the DNA will be analyzed to give the incoming students useful information on gene variations that affect their reactions to three dietary substances: lactose, folic acid and alcohol. The students will be apprised of the results and then the samples will be destroyed. Promise.
The Times reports privacy advocates have concerns, saying that the DNA samples could be used to explore other, more worrisome genetic traits and that there is no way to guarantee that the material would remain private. Indeed, in a time when a collective intake of breath was heard over the release of email information from iPad purchasers, what might be the reaction if the DNA from 5,500 freshman were to be misused or lost?
The school newspaper the Daily Californian, the first to report on the program, reported student reaction more in line with the true Berkeley iconoclast tradition. Comments describing the program as "Big Brother at Its Most Insidious," and "Creepy," were posted on the paper's website.
However, some incoming Bears are happy to go along with the group.
* UC Berkeley offer to test DNA of incoming students sparks debate (Los Angeles Times)
* True Blood: Havasupai Tribe and ASU Settle Dispute over DNA (FindLaw's Decided)
* Of Genes and Pink Slips: Genetic Testing Goes to Work (FindLaw)
* Privacy (FindLaw's LawBrain)