The premise of the movie GATTACA involved assisted reproduction, but the plot focused on a mostly successful attempt to evade mandatory genetic screening by an employer. Last year's Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) took care of that before it became a major issue, we thought. Now we learn that Major League Baseball (MLB) has been doing DNA tests for some time.
A week ago, CNNSI reported that the Yankees had voided a contract with a youth from the Dominican Republic who had lied about his age and name, and been caught by a DNA test. It's not clear exactly what happened in this case, but prospects frequently try to shave a year or two off their ages, sometimes by "borrowing" someone else's birth certificate. Testing parents and siblings, as well as candidates, is one way to confirm or deny identity.
The incentive to cheat is huge. Even a minor-league contract in MLB pays a minimum of $65,000 after the first year, and in the majors it's $400,000, not to mention signing bonuses: The kid who was caught would have received $850,000 up front. That's good money anywhere -- and people in the Dominican Republic make about one-sixth what Americans do. So some people look on these identity tests as reasonable. And MLB may have found some wiggle room in GINA; the
law, which comes into effect this fall, may not apply to overseas
The New York Times followed up, and revealed that clubs have been using DNA tests for a while. At least one prospect also had to provide samples of his blood, urine and feces, and both he and his sister had bone scans too. All of this is supposedly to confirm identity, but what else can -- or might -- be found in the samples? How about a predisposition to what used to be called Lou Gehrig's disease, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)? Would a modern prospect at even slight risk for ALS get a chance?
"DNA contains a host of information about risks for future diseases that prospective employers might be interested in discovering and considering," Kathy Hudson of the Genetics and Public Policy Center told the Times. "The point of GINA was to remove the temptation and prohibit employers from asking or receiving genetic information." Jeremy Gruber of the Council for Responsible Genetics added: "There are many instances where employers have acquired information for one reason and used it for another."
Many of us are skeptical about the use of genetic predictive tests, but it's all too easy to imagine abuse by management. And GATTACA-style deception by prospects.
Previously on Biopolitical Times:
Posted in Civil Society, Genetic Selection, Pete Shanks's Blog Posts
CommentsAdd a Comment
Comment by philip, Apr 12th, 2010 5:09pm
I think testing is a good idea..... its smarticle