In 2015, genes have many uses.
Soon after every baby in California is born, a hospital worker extracts and logs its genetic information. It will be tested for diseases and then stashed permanently in a warehouse containing a generation of Californians’ DNA.
For those charged with a felony – or, potentially, just arrested – a sliver of genetic code will be taken and placed in a state database that has grown rapidly in the last decade.
As scientists have mapped the personalized blueprints contained in each strand of DNA, the government has been collecting and storing reams of genetic material to combat disease and capture criminals. In seeking to shape when public agencies can take genetic information and how they can use it, lawmakers face a tension between individual privacy and public health and safety.
“You want to make sure government isn’t collecting too much DNA, but you also recognize it is the modern fingerprint,” said Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, though he differentiated genetics from fingerprints: “You’re taking the very stuff of life.”
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