Genographic Project Might Be Called


This would ignore the centuries of history where people were treated as different because of their appearance and the impact racism and xenophobia has had on human history. It also ignores the impact of culture in creating human associations and 'nations.' Studying migration patterns might still be viewed as a study of 'progress' rather than difference.

The work seems to be carried out with a certain Western bias, evidenced in the language of the website: "But we don't just need genetic information from Inuit and San Bushmen -- we need yours as well ("About the Project," National Geographic, 2005). Furthermore, the randomness of the sampling, because some of the samplings are based upon donation, might skew the results in favor of the DNA representation of people who hear about the project through Western media outlets like the Internet. Also, the Genographic Project Public Participation Kit must be purchased, which might skew the data in favor of individuals with the financial means to buy the kits. The fact that these kits must be purchased also means that financial donors are the subjects of the study, which could be seen as ethically problematic.

One of more debatable 'problems' is the lack of a focus on genes, and the focus on migration of 'peoples.' Although it is not specifically ideological in its orientation, the project website does state that cultural preservation is one of its core goals, an the idea that cultures can be statically 'preserved' like museum pieces seems questionable, almost as if it is reducing certain cultures to museum pieces because they are 'indigenous.' Also, the connection between cultural preservation and outlining the genetic and migratory diversity of the human species seems somewhat tangentially connected.

Present your opinion regarding this project using the information from your research to support your view

Although the project may be well-intentioned, perhaps the ultimate criteria for evaluating its ethical validity comes from the perspective of the indigenous people it is attempting to 'preserve' as one of its goals. "Indigenous peoples have consistently voiced their opposition to this type of research because it breaches cultural values, bioethical standards and human rights law (Butler 2005, p.2). The Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism (IPCB), have questioned the way in which the project sets up indigenous peoples as "subjects for scientific curiosity," and the lack of control the donors have over how their genetic information will be used, once it is given to the project (Butler 2005, p.2). In the point-of-view of these representatives of indigenous groups, "the research is designed around a racial research agenda, which will only result in racially interpreted conclusions based on bad science. What is more, the organization views the project researchers as operating in a field in which there is no legal framework to hold violators accountable for misuse of genetic material" (Butler 2005, p.2). Even if their objections seem overly sensitive, it should be placed in a context of how such genetic research about indigenous peoples was conducted in the past, and for indigenous donors there are serious questions about how informed their consent can be, when they release their information. Finally, as noted by the IPCB: "There could be serious political implications that result from a so-called 'scientific' assertion that indigenous peoples are not 'indigenous' to their territories, but instead are recent migrants from some other place," that the donors are not aware of, when they give their DNA (Butler 2005, p.2)..

Works Cited

About the Project." National Geographic, 2005. 10 Feb 2008.


Butler, Tina. "Indigenous groups oppose National Geographic, IBM project." 9 May 2005. 10 Feb 2008.

FAQ" National. National Geographic. 2005. 10 Feb 2008.


The Genographic Project." National Geographic. 2005. 10 Feb 2008.