WHY GENETIC STUDIES IN
Francisco M. Salzano
Incorrect and pernicious notions permeate Tierney's book (2000), which claims that human population genetic studies have little value, and they harm tribes like the Yanomamö. To the contrary, information on the genetic composition of a population can be useful to the group under investigation, and to humanity, in at least two ways: (1) by describing the genetics of a population, we are able to better understand its origins, its distinct evolutionary history, and the inherited peculiarities that result from them; and (2) by identifying possible genetic susceptibility to illnesses and adverse reactions to foods or drugs, we may be able to intervene early and prevent adverse health outcomes in the future.
The objective of this chapter is twofold. First, I will argue that tracing population origins and evolutionary histories of populations is an invaluable tool for understanding biological variation in general and the distribution of infectious, chronic, or drug-induced illness. Second, I propose that full appreciation for the implications of population history and health in any one population is best realized in the context of genetic knowledge drawn from a large, diverse sample of genetic data from all continents. Therefore, I will consider efforts developed internationally to obtain standardized, fully comparable population genetic information on a world-