View Full Version : UC Berkeley Asking Incoming Students For DNA

05-19-2010, 12:42 PM
UC Berkeley Asking Incoming Students For DNA
Posted: 7:52 am PDT May 18, 2010
Updated: 6:48 pm PDT May 18, 2010

BERKELEY, Calif. -- UC Berkeley is adding something a little different this year in its welcome package -- cotton swabs for a DNA sample.

In the past, incoming freshman and transfer students have received a rather typical welcome book from the College of Letters and Science's "On the Same Page" program, but this year the students will be asked for more.

The students will be asked to voluntarily submit a DNA sample. The cotton swabs will come with two bar code labels. One label will be put on the DNA sample and the other is kept for the students own records.

The confidential process is being overseen by Jasper Rine, a campus professor of Genetics and Development Biology, who says the test results will help students make decisions about their diet and lifestyle.

Once the DNA sample is sent in and tested, it will show the student’s ability to tolerate alcohol, absorb folic acid and metabolize lactose.

The results of the test will be put in a secure online database where students will be able to retrieve their results by using their bar code.

Rine hopes that this will excite students to be more hands-on with their college experience.

"This type of experience is one of the true, unique values of a Berkeley education. We don't just give you books to read,” Mark Schlissel, dean of the division of biological sciences said. “We involve you in cutting edge issues in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. You won't see this anywhere else in higher education."

Previously incoming students were advised to read Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and Stephen Hawking's "A Briefer History of Time" as behavioral guides.

Jesus wept. This is exactly the worst kind of use for emerging DNA analysis.

An 18 year old with true lactose intolerance would already know that about himself since his mother would have been unable to breastfeed him and he would have been under medical supervision to save his life as an infant. People who simply quit drinking milk as children aren't "lactose intolerant", they've just stopped making the necessary enzyme in large enough quantities. They can regain that ability over a few months by reintroducing dairy very gradually.

Alcohol metabolism is a function of race, time, quantity, body mass/composition, and food intake. All a DNA test can tell you is that you are Chinese or Sioux - something your parents would have presumably disclosed before college.

People who eat a lot of trashy processed food (college students, for instance) probably get all the folate they need from fortified industrial foods. Those who don't can take supplements to prevent miscarriages and neural tube defects. Current studies don't support the use of folate to prevent, minimize, or reverse cardiovascular disease. The theory sounds great but it hasn't panned out in population studies.

Beyond the bad science here, it's obvious that this program opens the door for mandatory DNA testing and analysis down the line. People should be concerned about the privacy issues involved as well as the security issues involved.

05-19-2010, 06:22 PM
You know, if they had argued that the DNA would be used to confirm the identities of Berkeley students committing felonies, I'd be on board with it (it would make quite a dent in the local police blotter, especially whenever a protest movement gets worked up). As it is, all that they are going to find out is that those students who have a genetic predisposition to higher alcohol tolerance and lower lactose tolerance will now have an excuse to put beer on their cornflakes.

05-19-2010, 07:05 PM
I can't say I have much of a problem with it as long as it stays voluntary. If you're stupid enough to give up your DNA to your administrative overlords, you're stupid enough to suffer their consequences.

Voluntary or mandatory, my personal response would remain Go Policon Yourself.

05-23-2010, 02:19 AM
How voluntary is voluntary? Will they be denied financial aid or a meal card or priority registration for classes if they don't cooperate?

Oh, and this:


Northern Arizona State will soon track class attendance via an RFID (radio frequency identification) chip in student ID cards. The system, which is similar to one used at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, will use sensors to detect students as they enter classrooms. The data collected will be recorded and shared with professors.

Predictably, students are unhappy and, with equal predictability, have taken their discontent to Facebook via the protest group although some of the more energetic have started petitions against the proposed practice.

University officials say their aim is only to increase student attendance and improve performance though, with enough sensors, they could easily track students’ whereabouts on campus at all times. Students counter, correctly, that they are adults and whether they attend class regularly, on time or pass at all is not the university’s business.

The larger issue being overlooked is the growing use of tracking devices in the U.S., and how willing most people are to be tagged and set loose in the “wild” where their movements and spending habits are monitored, recorded and filed away for someone’s future use....

05-23-2010, 02:59 PM
How voluntary is voluntary? Will they be denied financial aid or a meal card or priority registration for classes if they don't cooperate?

Oh, and this:


Where's Marlin Perkins when you need him?

Tonight, on Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, in conjunction with the producers of Girls Gone Wild, the elusive North Arizona State Communications major will be tracked from habitat to mating grounds, forage areas and finally, to the communal watering hole, where mating rituals will be observed and documented. :D