You can buy Karitiana Indian DNA from a New Jersey-based nonprofit for $85 a sample. What is the impoverished Amazon tribe getting out of the deal?
"We were duped, lied to and exploited," Renato Karitiana, the leader of the tribal association, said in an interview here on the tribe's reservation in the western Amazon, where 313 Karitiana eke out a living by farming, fishing and hunting.
"If anyone is ill, we will send medicine, lots of medicine," is what Joaquina Karitiana, 56, remembers being told, which soothed her worries. "They drew blood from almost everyone, including the children. But once they had what they wanted, we never received any medicine at all."
Why is it that we don't actually compensate blood, organ, or tissue donors? Oh right, to protect human dignity. Someone (Leon Kass?) needs to explain this to the Brazilians.
"This is sort of a balancing act," said Judith Greenberg, director of genetics and developmental biology at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health. "We don't want to do something that makes a whole tribe or people unhappy or angry. On the other hand, the scientific community is using these samples, which were accepted and maintained under perfectly legitimate procedures, for the benefit of mankind," she said.
The Karitiana Indians want medicine. The researchers want Karitiana Indian DNA. This needn't be a "balancing act" at all, thanks to the existence of a mutually agreed upon medium that can be exchanged for goods and services.
More on tissue and property here.