Mon, Jul 02, 2018 - Page 6 News List

[ LETTERS ]

Genetic literacy crucial

Due to advances in genetic and genomic science, applications of genetic-related discoveries in the fields of medicine, pharmaceuticals and public health have seen explosive growth.

An article published in your newspaper sheds light on the application of genetic, or genomic, approaches in forensic and criminal science in a similar manner (“DNA detectives are searching for killers in your family tree,” June 18, page 7).

It also hints at the social implications of genetic discoveries in the new millennium, such as: Who owns the DNA and who can access the stored DNA after its initial use?

These issues are closely related to possible social discrimination, and employment and insurance opportunities.

It is recognized that the public is not adequately educated to be genetically, or genomically, literate. Therefore, some people still hold misconceptions and believe that genes determine people’s fates in terms of health, characteristics and behavior.

This misconception does not always align with discoveries regarding gene-environment interaction; namely, the role of genes in most common diseases — for example diabetes, cancer and heart disease — is contingent on other environmental factors, including a person’s lifestyle.

Therefore, our health and behavior is not determined exclusively by our genes, and other environmental factors are at play. For example, not all women who have inherited the breast cancer gene mutation will develop breast cancer. Lifestyle factors such as diet and smoking feature in breast cancer development.

However, if employers had access to potential employees’ DNA, they might predict that person’s ability to perform incorrectly based on genetic misconceptions. Similarly, insurance opportunities might be affected if insurance companies had access to a person’s DNA.

Moreover, genetic tests have implications not only for an individual but their whole family; any decision regarding how to use personal DNA affects not only a single person, but their whole biological network.

Think of this: What would the consequences be if employers had access to potential employees’ relatives’ DNA?

Similarly, DNA information might have far-reaching effects on people’s marriage prospects. Unfortunately, most people do not think of the social implications of genetic testing and therefore do not even have a sense that they should protect their personal or familial rights in the face of genetic advances.

In other developed countries, such as the US, UK and Australia, promoting genetic and genomic education to improve people’s genetic and genomic literacy has become public policy, because the public needs basic genetic, genomic knowledge to be able to participate in genetic policy-making in an informed way.

Hopefully Taiwan does not lag too far behind in this regard.

Chingning Wang

New South Wales, Australia

Limiting work hours

Labor groups at a recent rally urged people to sign their petitions for two referendum proposals (“Labor groups hold rally outside AmCham offices,” June 24, page 3).

One of them said that the government should not restrict laborers’ work hours.

In a free market economy, work hours should be negotiated between workers and employers, and the government should not be involved.

Limited work hours are also of no benefit to laborers or employers. Workers would not be able to arrange their work schedule at will because they would need to follow the work hour restrictions; while employers would need to hire more people to comply with the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法).

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