Indigenous DNA search

From a letter to the editor in today’s Herald in response to an opinion piece last week: Raymond Bradley: Charlatan tohunga alive and kicking

When Sir Peter Buck wrote “the old world of the Maori has passed away”, I refuse to believe he then advocated Maori should abandon all former knowledge and embrace science unremittingly.

While Sir Peter was an acclaimed academic, he was also steeped in his tikanga (Maori customs). I interpret from his writings that he was alerting his people to a paradigm shift in their lifestyle.

For Perspectives writer Professor Raymond Bradley to assume Peter Buck would have been appalled at the attitudes of some Maori (myself included) towards DNZ mapping is spurious and unscientific. Sir Peter would have asked the same questions. Like, who is driving the geneographic global bus? And why?

We are told that the cardinal thrust behind the indigenous DNA search comes from the reputable National Geographic magazine and a nameless wealthy American family. I am curious already.

But before the geneophiles can extract my whakapapataapuu (sacred gene bank) from me, I want to know, who owns what?

For instance, if the research team discovers a gene in my DNA profile that can cure cancer, who would own that gene?

James Waerea, Ponsonby

I have no bloodline of interest to anybody, a mongrel of colonialism with English, Danish and who knows what else mixed into the pot so I’m ill equipped to comment on whether others should participate in the study or not.

I can, however, be dismayed at the attitude expressed that a cure for cancer should be withheld based on an accident of birth. If any group holds the answer to a cure for any illness then they should be entitled to profit from it’s development and distribution. However, merely holding the gene within one’s makeup is only a tiny fraction of the story. There is no intellectual property, no years of research on how to discover the fact, to use it wisely and without causing further harm, and to make it available.

To claim some special right to compensation for using the gene, as is implied, is a tragic consequence of capitalism. I’m guess James Waerea isn’t a blood donor, and isn’t signed up as an organ donor. In one little sentence he declares that such altruism is beyond him.

I made my position on this clear in my baby hearts post and nothing has changed. I don’t have the skills or expertise to harness certain bits of information. If you do, then great! I won’t mind if you earn a living from it, just don’t hold it too close…


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