Parents are being cautioned to be guarded when it comes to the dissemination of information about their children’s health.
The warning comes from the president of the National Parent Teacher Association, Alister Thomas, who spoke with OBSERVER media on the matter.
“I am one who would like to advise the government, the health department and the parents, particularly the parents to be very guarded because there is in fact on the global scale a dramatic illegal use of genetic data and databases,” Thomas said.
He was reacting to an ongoing exercise in which parents are being asked to sign consent forms for the ministry of health to collect health information for their children.
He said that there are two aspects that concern him. One of them he said, is that our government and local authorities have absolutely no control over how the data they are providing is being used, and that there is no proper watchdog in place to ensure that genetic information collected on children is being sent to the correct places and not just to corporations for profit.
He highlighted the point that when screen testing is done for whatever reason, the information gathered represents a person’s genetic sequence and that of his or her family. He said that after this information is sent off, there is nothing that the local authorities can do to ensure that it is only used for the purpose for which it was intended.
He said that a person’s genetic information can be used to affect them in both positive and negative ways and therefore it is not something that can be taken lightly. Thomas said that this is a topic that he has researched extensively.
He also stressed that he fully endorses data being collected for the use of research and development of medicine, but he is concerned that it can also be used to manipulate the genetic makeup indirectly through micromanipulation of genes.
He asserted that some leading pharmaceutical companies buy health information unknowing to the citizenry, and use it for sinister motives. He said that this is what concerns him most.
According to the president of the national PTA, he will seek to raise the consciousness of parents and other stakeholders to the fact that many pharmaceutical companies use data to tailor-make diseases that target specific groups of people so as to ensure their future profits.
Thomas acknowledged that there is research to show that genetic data collected in places such as Africa, the Caribbean and developing countries are being used for social and economic manipulation with some making billions of dollars from that which is supposed to be private information.