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Why the Government Is Concerned With 23andMe DNA Test

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  • Ron Hart
    Ron Hart is a syndicated columnist and humorist.
By Ron Hart, Op-Ed Contributor
December 3, 2013|3:04 pm

We now have a government in Washington that feels it is in charge of everything, yet responsible for nothing.

When our government is not in charge of something, it inserts itself into the enterprise, as is the case with the FDA's recent attempt to halt the sale of 23andMe DNA tests. Our government looked around the value-added business of personal genetic diagnostics and decided one thing was missing: government did not have a say-so.

This is more about government control than it is about what is good for us. Studies show the FDA has caused more deaths through its slow government bureaucracy than it has prevented. As Nobel Prize-winning economist Vernon Smith stated in Free to Choose Medicine, inherent in the one-size-fits-all regulatory bureaucracy is the incentive to delay rather than approve a drug or medical procedure that could save lives. FDA bureaucrats assume everyone has the same view of risk that they do and that they know more than the doctor or patient.

In the case of 23andMe, the FDA based its injunction on defining the rudimentary, $1.00 test tube you spit in as a "medical device." If it wants you, government will get you.

Competition protects consumers more than government does. Like all federal agencies, the FDA is politically motivated. It has an agenda. And like ObamaCare, it is also a mess: a case of the left hand not knowing what the far left hand is doing.

Environmentalists concerned about losing salmon in rivers due to overfishing forced the FDA to approve genetically engineered salmon. If they can engineer a fish that can swim upstream against powerful currents, the Democrats will run those fish for Congress in 2014.

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The FDA was politically motivated to quickly approve the "Plan B" morning-after contraceptive for women. I'd like to market a morning-after pill for men; it would change your DNA and your cell phone number the next day.

Innovation is about trial and error, risk and entrepreneurship. In almost all successful startups that have had a positive influence on mankind, the government was not involved. Amazing things happen when government gets out of the way.

The Google-backed 23andMe survives in the genetics-testing arena where others failed because of its deep-pocketed founders. Billionaire founder Sergey Brin's wife (they are currently separated, as Brin will be from half of his money if they get divorced) spent millions having his personal DNA sequenced to determine what diseases he might be prone to, so he could be proactive in prevention. He used that model and made it available to the rest of us for just $99. As an accomplished hypochondriac, I had the test done and found that it agreed with many of my family health risks. It was of value.

It also identifies relatives for you. I have connected with several relatives through 23andMe. We Harts can now keep up with family members through this process and not our traditional way of monitoring police scanners.

DNA has dogged politicians from Thomas Jefferson to, recently, Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Democrat VP nominee John Edwards asked his assistant to steal a diaper from his baby mama to run a DNA test while claiming he was not the daddy. It turned out that both John Edwards and the diaper were full of the same thing.

The Supreme Court has ruled that human genetic DNA cannot be patented but that artificial DNA created to correct inherited genetic defects can. Every time there's a new technology, the law has to adapt. Folks were probably worried when law enforcement began using fingerprinting in 1858, back when John McCain and Harry Reid were freshman Senators.

Liberals want to control scientific data and interpret them as they please. As with global warming data, they do not trust anyone to form conclusions but themselves. And Democrats want laws on everything. It does not matter what the law is, as long as it is mandatory and unions are exempt.

We libertarians are left to defend the individual's right to do with his DNA what he damn well pleases. Each person perceives value differently and should be able to spend his money accordingly. I was back in my small Tennessee hometown recently. A buddy from high school picked me up in his $1,000 car and drove me to his $20,000 house to pick up his $25,000 bass boat to take me fishing. He could not have been a happier person.

Ron Hart is a syndicated op-ed humorist, award-winning author and TV/radio commentator. Email Ron@RonaldHart.com or visit www.RonaldHart.com
 

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