Genetic material is now cause of much debate as many governments now store our DNA profiles in vast DNA databases, alongside the DNA of criminals.DNA testing has solved countless problems and it has spilled over the boundaries of laboratories, forensics and the likes as now it is accessible to most. Paternity DNA tests, relationship tests, ancestry tests are just some of the DNA available. A DNA profile is even more unique than a fingerprint; hence its use to police and forensic experts.

DNA testing and DNA databases: the situation in europe

A treaty has been signed between a number of governments including Germany and France which makes it possible for governments to freely share information about people they have stored in the DNA databases. If a person’s DNA is not available, simple, a foreign government can ask that another government collect the required person’s DNA. This has been agreed upon in what is known as the Plum Treaty. In Wales much of what has been going on regarding the issues has been found by many to be appalling. The government has been adding thousands of people to their DNA database; the problem is that many of these people are innocent and are having their DNA placed with the likes of thieves, murders and rapists.

The idea behind DNA databases – what are the concerns?

Having DNA profiles readily available saves a lot of time for DNA forensic experts and police. More importantly, when a crime is committed any genetic material found at the crime scene can be used to create a profile which in turn can be compared to the profiles found in the DNA database; a match between the DNAs and the police have their criminal. Thus, the vaster and more comprehensive of the population the database is the higher the chance of solving crimes. DNA is unique to every individual; moreover, we leave our DNA everywhere; hairs can contain DNA, a licked envelope, a used glass and a number of other alternative sources of DNA are available for forensic experts. The question is who should be added on the DNA database? For how long? And for what reason?

The European court has decreed the practices as carried out in Wales to be in breach of human rights. Yet the country continues to add the DNA profiles to it genetic archives. The government will not easily give on what it is doing. These databases have helped to solve crimes that have remained unsolved for decades. Opposition to this move says by civil liberties campaigns and other factions claim that the government must remove all innocent people from the database. However, innocent people might become guilty as they may at some point turn to crime and thus, having their genetic profile ready facilitates and speeds up the crime-solving process. The database in England contains the genetic information of around 150,000 children who were arrested by mistake, cluttering the databases with names of innocent people.

DNA profiling to protect prostitutes

Prostitution is a high risk job and in Dallas, Texas, measures have been taken to protect these workers. The FBI and the police are working together by offering truck-stop prostitutes to not only undergo rehabilitation but also to have their DNA information taken just as a means of easing investigations should a prostitute be found murdered or reported missing. The police are using the most commonly used sampling technique – a mouth swab. This involves rubbing a swab inside the mouth of the prostitutes in order to gather cheek cells and saving the DNA profiles derived along with their names and other required information. Many are outraged that these women who commit themselves to doing something illegal should be protected, but the move by the police is not overlooking the act; it is acknowledging that it exists and that many of these women are often victims of murder and other crimes.

A major concern with the DNA Database

There is however growing concern. It is not simply a matter of having your DNA information in genetic databases. There are many who would willing oblige as they might view it as no big deal so as long as it will help solve and reduce crime. When police compare the genetic profiles found on the DNA scene and those in the databases they locate common genetic loci between the two; if there happen to be less matches then a given number, then the match is inconclusive and excludes the person in the database from having done the crime.

However, if a number of loci on the DNA match, then the crime might be solved. What can happen is that a search in the databases can result in a genetic relative of the criminal being apprehended for the crime. DNA database laws are still flawed and unknown to many; a lot of work needs to be done and awareness built if people are to accept this use of DNA testing as another means of storing information about them.

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