Gen­er­azzi rule the Wild West of pa­ter­nity

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - HENRIËTTE GELDENHUYS

THEY’RE called “gen­er­azzi” or “ge­netic tro­phy hunters”.

They’re DNA or ge­netic iden­tity thieves who hunt down the DNA of fa­mous peo­ple.

Of­fers of sale of the DNA of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and Elvis Pres­ley on eBay showed there was “a mar­ket for ge­netic ma­te­rial taken with­out con­sent”, said Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia law pro­fes­sor El­iz­a­beth Joh in a re­sear ch pa­per on DNA theft, pub­lished in the Bos­ton Univer­sity Law Re­view in 2011.

She said the “non-con­sen­sual col­lec­tion and anal­y­sis of an­other per­son’s DNA is gen­er­ally un­con­strained by law”.

Legally, it’s been de­scribed as the “Wild West” and a “no man’s land”, said Joh.

The pro­fes­sor men­tioned a plot to steal Prince Harry’s hair to verify whether he was Prince Charles’s ge­netic child, and body­guards re­mov­ing a glass for­mer US pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton drank from at a UK pub”.

Hol­ly­wood mogul Kirk Kerko­rian al­legedly took mil­lion­aire film pro­ducer Steve Bing’s DNA from den­tal floss Bing left in his rub­bish to prove the child at the cen­tre of Kerko­rian’s pa­ter­nity dis­pute was Bing’s, she said.

Pro­fes­sional ath­lete’s DNA was some­times an­a­lysed de­spite their protests – to screen for risks of fa­tal health con­di­tions be­fore of­fer­ing them lu­cra­tive con­tracts.

Na­tional Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (NBA) player Eddy Curry re­fused on pri­vacy grounds to un­dergo a DNA test re­quested by the Chicago Bulls be­fore they traded him to the New York Knicks. Joh also men­tioned the fol­low­ing ex­am­ples that could arise:

A po­lit­i­cal party want­ing to pub­li­cise an op­po­nent’s pre­dis­po­si­tions to dis­ease that might ren­der the op­po­nent un­suit­able for of­fice.

A his­to­rian or jour­nal­ist pur­su­ing the truth about some­one claim­ing to be the il­le­git­i­mate de­scen­dant of a pub­lic fig­ure.

Some­one pub­li­cis­ing an en­emy’s like­li­hood of be­com­ing an al­co­holic, a crim­i­nal or obese.

A per­son who wants to know whether his or her part­ner car­ries genes for bald­ness or per­sis­tent mis­car­riage.

“Black­mail­ers or nosy neigh­bours may col­lect DNA for per­sonal vengeance or mis­chief,” wrote Joh.

On the other hand, these tests could cause much joy.

Politi­cian Peter Orzag was con­cerned about drink­ing too much Diet Coke, and was de­lighted to dis­cover he had a gene that helped with ef­fi­cient caf­feine me­tab­o­lism, Joh wrote.

A DNA kin­ship test tests the re­la­tion­ship be­tween two or more peo­ple to the re­la­tion­ships, for ex­am­ple, of half sib­lings, par­ents and grand­par­ents.

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