Science Policy For All

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Science Policy Around the Web – June 2, 2015

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By: Kaitlyn Morabito, Ph.D.

photo credit: GENE A101 via photopin (license)

Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act (GINA)

Test for ‘devious defecator’ was unlawful, judge rules

The Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act (GINA), which protects people from health care and employment discrimination based on their DNA, is being used in court for an unlikely case. A mysterious person had been leaving feces in a warehouse run by Atlas Logistics Group Retail Services near Atlanta. In an effort to solve the mystery, two employees suspected of being involved were threatened with losing their jobs if they did not take a DNA test. The DNA was then compared to the DNA in the fecal sample. The samples were not a match showing that these employees did not commit the crime. Despite being cleared, the employees sued the company citing humiliation. The employees won the lawsuit with the judge ruling that using a DNA test to identify the employees was a violation of GINA, even though there were no disclosure of medical information. In this case, the judge argued that even though they weren’t using the test to check for genetic disorders, the information they received could have been used for this purpose. This case suggests that GINA can be more far-reaching than originally intended. (Nita Farahany, The Washington Post)

GMO Debate

A proposal to modify plants gives GMO debate new life

A process dubbed “rewilding” where scientists re-introduce genes lost through years of breeding back into plants is sparking a new debate in the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMO). This technique may be used to bolster fragile organic crops using “precision breeding” where modern molecular biology techniques are used to insert or delete genes. By US law, organic non-GMO foods cannot contain any “foreign” genes which could not have occurred in nature in that organism. Since rewilding is introducing genes, which have previously been in the plant, this may not be considered GMO by US standards. The EU, however, uses a different definition. The EU’s definition revolves around the process of genetic engineering to introduce genes, making rewilding a GMO in the EU. Regardless of whether rewilding would be considered GMO, opponents of GMO would likely not accept precision breeding since it involves genetic engineering. (Gina Kolata, The New York Times)

Biosecurity

Anthrax inquiry widens to 24 labs in 11 states, two foreign countries

A military lab at Dugway Proving Ground outside of Salt Lake City accidentally sent live Bacillus anthracis, Anthrax, spores to 24 labs inside and outside the US. The samples were supposed to have been inactivated prior to shipment. The army lab sent samples to laboratories that were testing a new diagnostic for anthrax. The error was discovered when a private lab in Maryland was able to culture the anthrax bacteria. The CDC and other agencies are working to determine how the samples were shipped and whether all the labs received live anthrax samples. 26 people are currently being treated for potential exposure, but no infections have been confirmed.   The public is not at risk for exposure. This recent breach of biosecurity is not an isolated incident. Last year, the CDC’s Bioterror Rapid Response and Advanced Technology laboratory also failed to properly inactivate anthrax before releasing it to another CDC laboratory. (W.J. Hennigan, The LA Times)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

June 2, 2015 at 9:00 am

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