Hart: Government control: Spitting mad over DNA tests

Hart: Government control: Spitting mad over DNA tests

December 6th, 2013 By Ron Hart in Opinion Columns

We now have a government in Washington that feels it is in charge of everything, yet responsible for nothing.

When our government is not in charge of something, it inserts itself into the enterprise, as is the case with the Food and Drug Administration's recent attempt to halt the sale of 23andMe DNA tests. Our government looked around the value-added business of personal genetic diagnostics and decided one thing was missing: Government did not have a say-so.

This is more about government control than it is about what is good for us. Studies show the FDA has caused more deaths through its slow-moving bureaucracy than it has prevented. As Nobel Prize-winning economist Vernon Smith stated in "Free to Choose Medicine," inherent in the one-size-fits-all regulatory bureaucracy is the incentive to delay rather than approve a drug or medical procedure that could save lives. FDA bureaucrats assume everyone has the same view of risk that they do and that they know more than the doctor or patient.

In the case of 23andMe, a Silicon Valley startup, the FDA based its injunction against the company's genetic testing kit, basically a test tube you spit in and mail back, on the claim that it's a "medical device." If it wants you, government will get you.

The FDA was politically motivated to quickly approve the "Plan B" morning-after contraceptive for women. I'd like to market a morning-after pill for men; it would change your DNA and your cellphone number the next day.

Innovation is about trial and error, risk and entrepreneurship. In almost all successful startups that have had a positive influence on mankind, the government was not involved. Amazing things happen when government gets out of the way.

The Google-backed 23andMe survives in the genetics testing arena where others failed because of its deep-pocketed founders. Billionaire founder Sergey Brin's wife spent millions having his personal DNA sequenced to determine what diseases he might be prone to, so he could be proactive in prevention. He used that model and made it available to the rest of us for just $99.

As an accomplished hypochondriac, I had the test done and found that it agreed with many of my family health risks. It was of value.

It also identifies relatives for you. I have connected with several relatives through 23andMe. We Harts can now keep up with family members through this process and not our traditional way -- monitoring police scanners.

The Supreme Court has ruled that human DNA cannot be patented but that artificial DNA created to correct inherited genetic defects can be. Every time there's a new technology, the law has to adapt.

Liberals want to control scientific data and interpret them as they please. As with global warming data, they do not trust anyone to form conclusions but themselves. And Democrats want laws on everything. It does not matter what the law is, as long as it is mandatory, and unions are exempt.

Hard religious-right Republicans are suspicious of science for fear it might contradict the Bible.

We libertarians are left to defend the individual's right to do with his DNA what he pleases. Each person perceives value differently and should be able to spend his money accordingly.

I was back recently in my small Tennessee hometown. A buddy from high school picked me up in his $1,000 car and drove me to his $20,000 house to pick up his $25,000 bass boat to take me fishing. He could not have been a happier person.

Ron Hart, a libertarian syndicated op-ed humorist, award-winning author and TV/radio commentator can be reached at Ron@RonaldHart.com or visit www.RonaldHart.com