33_lambsI am so impressed with the inexpensive nature of DNA testing for livestock: the going rate for a single sheep DNA test is just over ten dollars, and multiple companies are in competition for your business. Contrast this to the dog show world, where some researchers accept public funds to do DNA research.Then they get the help and cooperation of dog lovers and owners to collect samples for their studies. Then they turn around and patent their findings and sell the patent to a single DNA test company, who can then monopolize the test for seven years until the patent runs out.

This results in DNA tests for canine breeding stock that run about $200 “on sale” at a clinic setting! This phenomenon has made it exhorbitantly expensive for dog breeders to try to do the right thing and test their breeding stock for all known hereditary diseases. Verifying a dog is “good” for breeding can cost upwards of a thousand dollars!  Contrast this to the sheep scrapie gene discovery, which is now in the public domain, multiple DNA test companies compete to offer the test, and the price is very reasonable. I don’t know if this particular tets may also be subsidized, since it’s in the public interest to reduce scrapie. But, the drastic difference in price clearly points to some level of profiteerism on the dog DNA tests! I doubt that demand is a factor- I would almost bet that more dog DNA tests are done than sheep.

I always try to encourage “dog people” to ask questions before they donate to, or participate in, reserach projects on DNA, to first verify that the researcher has pledged to publish their findings to the public domain, and not patent them. My understanding is that this is a hot ethical topic in the research community, but one that we’re little aware of as laymen.

Advertisements