Dated: May 26, 2006 For more information contact: Debra Harry (775) 574-0248 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
United Nations Recommends Halt to Genographic Project
Protestors express their opposition to the Genographic Project, reminiscent of its failed predecessor, the Human Genome Diversity Project, nicknamed the “Vampire Project.”
May 26, 2006 - A United Nations body recommended today that a project seeking to collect more than 100,000 DNA samples from Indigenous peoples should come to an immediate end. On the closing day of its two week meeting, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) announced its recommendation that “the World Health Organization and the Human Rights Commission investigates the objectives of the Genographic Project” and request “that the Genographic Project be immediately suspended and report to the Indigenous peoples on the free, prior and informed consent of all the communities where activities are conducted or planned.”
On May 20, 2006 several Indigenous leaders met with the representatives of the Genographic Project and its parent organization, the National Geographic Society (NGS), to express their overwhelming opposition to the project. The Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism (IPCB) presented a petition to lead researcher, Dr. Spencer Wells, bearing the names of more than 850 Indigenous nations, organizations, individuals, and supporters calling on the National Geographic Society to stop the Project. The meeting, organized by Cultural Survival, was originally planned to be a dialogue between their Program Council, IPCB and the Genographic Project, and was planned to coincide with the fifth UNPFII. As a result of significant interest from many Indigenous peoples participating at the UN, the dialogue about the Genographic Project was opened to include participation from several more lndigenous leaders.
Prior to and during the meeting, over 30 protestors rallied outside of the meeting at the UN Millennium Plaza and voiced their concerns about the project’s exploitation of Indigenous peoples. Rally speeches called for a boycott of National Geographic products and supported meeting participants’ call for an immediate halt of the Genographic Project. Although Wells and top National Geographic officials failed to agree to this demand, Indigenous peoples are pleased that their urgent message was echoed by the United Nations. IPCB’s Director, Debra Harry notes, “The historical practice of objectifying Indigenous peoples in unethical research should be over. The weight of a UN recommendation should cause the NGS to seriously reconsider moving forward with this project.” Recalling the demise of a similar effort in the 1990s, the Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP), Harry says, “When UNESCO’s International Bioethics Committee denied support to the HDGP, it wasn’t much longer that the project came to an end.” Today Mick Dodson, a noted aboriginal rights scholar from Australia and rapporteur for the UNPFII cleared up misconceptions that his writings on ethical standards for research with Indigenous peoples were being used to promote the Genographic Project. Dodson said, “A document has been circulated [by National Geographic] that implies that I support the Genographic Project. I don’t. I oppose it.”