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Database Might Raise More Issues Than Solves

Kuwait passed a law last year to require all citizens, residents, and visitors there to provide DNA samples for a database aimed at reducing crime and terrorism, but Olaf Rieß, the president of the European Society of Human Genetics, argues in the New Scientist that the data bank — which is to soon begin collecting samples — won't combat terrorism and could instead be put to other concerning uses.

Rieß notes that the law came on the heels of a bombing in Kuwait last year that killed 27 people. Officials say the DNA database could be used not only to identify the perpetrators of such act, but also the victims. However, Rieß questions whether being unmasked would deter any would-be suicide bombers.

Further, he argues that the database could also be used to determine paternity, which could identify people who've run afoul of adultery laws, or gauge ancestry, which could lead to discrimination. At the same time, he says tourists and businesses may choose to stay away from Kuwait. And as a scientist, Rieß says he worries that mandatory DNA collection might make the public less likely to support research.

"Kuwait has invested heavily in genetic technology, so collecting DNA on this scale would probably be feasible, at least in the first instance," Rieß writes. "But the question is not whether it is feasible, but rather whether it is desirable."