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Germany Bans Genetic Genealogy Tests

 

Germany has passed a law that bans all direct-to-consumer genetic tests. Although the new law does not appear to be directly written to ban at-home genetic genealogy tests, one consequence of the law is that people in Germany will no longer be able to order genetic genealogy tests online.

The new law in Germany was meant to ban practices that appear to have gotten a little bit out of hand. For example, many employers in Germany have made genetic tests an obligatory condition of employment. Similar issues occur with life insurance companies demanding genetic tests for anyone seeking a life insurance policy. The new legislation prevents discrimination based on genetic information. Now a person must give consent for a genetic test and the test must be administered by a licensed medical doctor.

Paternity tests are now only allowed if both the man and the woman agree in writing to perform the test. A man who is suspicious of the paternity of his child can no longer unilaterally conduct a paternity test. Other countries, such as Australia, have similar rules on paternity tests. The (somewhat questionable) logic of such regulations is to ensure the child has sufficient financial resources to be raised without having to resort to state aid. This is done at the expense of the man. As well, from a genealogist’s perspective, this masks the true ancestry of an individual.

Genetic genealogy tests have obviously been caught up in the new German legislation. However, at-home DNA genealogy tests ordered over the internet have also been controversial (see How Accurate are Genetic Ancestry Tests) and some groups have proposed new regulations for the field (see New Standard Proposed for Genetic Genealogy Tests). Some US States have already begun regulating genetic genealogy tests (see California Licensing Genetic Testing).

At-home genetic genealogy tests basically suffer from two major issues: the accuracy of some of the tests are questionable and the testing companies tend to heavily underplay the implications of an unexpected negative outcome (like finding out that your father is not your biological father). The best advice we can offer is do your homework before ordering such a test and make sure you understand the consequences to you and your family of an unexpected negative outcome.

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