Scientists express ethical concerns about genetic research on Rome

Scientists express ethical concerns about genetic research on Rome

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A little gypsy girl. Getty Images

Scientists have identified a number of worrisome problems in genetic studies of the long-persecuted Romani people in Europe. The column, published Wednesday in the scientific journal Tempering Nature, highlights ethical gaps in sample collection and their overrepresentation in databases available to law enforcement — part of a larger problem with “unethical use” of DNA databases.


  • The authors wrote that DNA samples were taken from thousands of Roma since the 1990s and possibly even the 1970s, and many were taken without permission before they were involved in the research and added to public databases.
  • In some cases, genetic material was taken from inmates, while in others people were tricked into donating their DNA, a practice that “most human geneticists find unacceptable”.

critical rate

“We believe that research and peer review practices need to change across a wide range of disciplines, from forensic genetics to molecular anthropology,” the authors wrote in Nature. If past and present mistakes are not corrected, more people are at risk of damage from DNA collection. It also threatens the reputation of human genetics – and science in general.”

A large number

10 to 12 million. This is the number of Roma living in Europe, according to the European Union. The term “Rome” itself is a general term that includes a number of different identities.

main context

Issues of racism and genetic discrimination have become more prominent in recent years with discussion of historical abuses, such as those committed by Henrietta Lacks in the United States, or China’s use of DNA to track Uyghurs. Gypsies are still persecuted in Europe, due in part to apartheid and lack of access to food and water.

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Article translated from the American magazine Forbes – author: Tia Kvitnadze

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