Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

DNA: My Baby Maybe

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

DNA: My Baby Maybe

Article excerpt

The identity of a baby's father can be discovered more quickly and cheaply since do-it-yourself DNA tests went on sale in high-street pharmacists in the US last month.

The $29.99 ([pounds sterling]15) kits, with a further $119 ([pounds sterling]60) for laboratory costs, sold so well in test marketing in the Pacific coast states that Sorenson Genomics of Salt Lake City, Utah, has rolled out its Identigene paternity kits across America. The kit consists of three cotton-bud swabs to take DNA samples from inside the cheek, one for baby, one for the putative father, and one for the mother, a consent form, three polythene pouches to keep the samples separate and an envelope addressed to the laboratory. Sorenson guarantees results by email within five business days.

Sorenson employs the same method forensic scientists use to determine DNA at crime scenes. The kits, which can establish paternity or prove genetic links between siblings with 99.9 per cent certainty, are being hailed as a breakthrough in resolving nagging family disputes. In the past, a DNA paternity test cost up to $2,000 and took up to six months.

There is no doubting the demand. The American Pregnancy Association reports that about 3 per cent of the 40,000 calls made to its hotline each year concern disputed paternity. According to Christine Rosen, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Centre in Washington, DC, about one man in 25 in developed countries is unwittingly raising a child who is no blood relation. In Tennessee in 2006, about 2,000 of the 7,000 men named as fathers by women seeking child support turned out not to be the biological father.

Reasons for using the kits vary. The test altered the life of Wendy Lieb's 20-year-old son, who dropped out of university and found a job to support a woman who claimed he had made her pregnant at a party. …

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