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Shady DNA Testing Marketed to Parents Hoping Kids Have Talent

It’s not uncommon for parents to hope their children have some type of talent, be it artistic, athletic or intellectual.  So it’s reasonable that anxious parents are being scammed into purchasing expensive (and bogus) DNA tests to determine whether or not their kids have success in their genes. 

The Daily Scan reports that, due to the vast amount of companies offering false promises, the FDA is about to “overhaul its regulations on genetic diagnostic testing.”  According to the MIT Technology Review, more than 2,000 DNA tests are now available to consumers, including (as I previously reported) the world’s first over-the-counter DNA paternity test.

But talent testing is a particularly shady niche of the genetics testing market.  The Stuff of Life ran a post on Monday called Children and genomics – the underworld of DNA talent testing.  Elaine Westwick, scientist, mother and author of the blog, writes, “There is a clutch of companies who market DNA tests to children without the backing of real science. They hail mainly from Singapore and China and their marketing machines are getting slicker.”

One such item, The Inborn Talent Genetic Test, supposedly “reveals the inherited and endowed inborn talents of a child scientifically from the genetic makeup of his/her DNA,” per the LA Times.  The test is offered by My Gene Profile, based in Singapore.  Westwick notes that one of the “talents” this test will reveal is a “Propensity for Teenage Romance,” discovered, of course, in the Propensity for Teenage Romance Gene.  Which is right next to the Ability to Pop Zits Without Scarring Gene.  Now that’s talent! 

Other genes include the pesky Split Personality Gene, the Linguistic/Literature Gene (I’m no linguistic gene-ius, but shouldn’t that be “literary” gene?) and the Sensitivity to Second-Hand Smoke Gene, not to be confused with the Insensitivity to Second-Hand Smoke Gene.  (Psychology Today has the full list of gene variants.)  Or you can buy the Inborn Talent Genetic Test (an $8871 value!) for only $1397.

Westwick says even otherwise reputable music schools are getting in on the revenue-generating game of DNA testing.  “Magic Fidler is a company running children’s music classes with a sideline in DNA testing to determine musical ability,” she writes.  The Magic Fiddler website boasts that “for $2,000 the scientific results can pinpoint your child’s strengths and weaknesses in 40 areas, including IQ, EQ, memory as well as artistic and athletic abilities.”  An extra $800 will get you “the DNA Test plus 12 weekly music classes.”

None of these tests are based on actual science, as the LA Times points out.  “Even well-respected researchers in the field of genomics are struggling to come up with clear, verified links between complicated traits and specific genes.”  Westwick thinks, however, that “the genomics juggernaut is on a roll, bringing with it more robust links between personality traits and DNA sequence.”  She wonders, “When predictive testing finally comes of age, should we allow children to be tested?”  Would you?

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