Friday, December 6, 2019

I Took DNA Tests in the U.S. and China. The Results Concern Me Privacy is big question, as governments seek access to DNA data.

Spitting into the plastic test tube, I felt nervous. I was offering up a piece of myself for decoding, and while this time there was no silver-haired sage, it reminded me of a visit to a fortune teller when I was 21.

Then, I offered the palm of my hand in a bid to divine what fate had planned for me. Now, it was DNA, with my saliva destined for a laboratory in southwest China, to the headquarters of Chengdu 23Mofang Biotechnology Co., a startup that’s seeking to tap a boom in consumer genetics in the world’s most populous nation.

Rising awareness of genetically-linked diseases like Alzheimer’s and a natural human curiosity for insight into the future is fueling a global market for direct-to-consumer DNA testing that’s predicted to triple over the next six years. In China, where the government has embraced genetics as part of its push to become a scientific superpower, the industry is expected to see $405 million in sales by 2022, according to Beijing research firm EO Intelligence, an eight-fold increase from 2018. Some 4 million people will send away test tubes of spit in China this year, and I had just become one of them.

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