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Andes communique genographic_project_hunts_the_last_incas

  1. 1. ANDES Communiqué – May 2011Genographic ProjectHunts the Last IncasResurrected ‘Vampire Project’ BringsFears of Biopiracy to Cusco Region“The Q’ero Nation knows that its history, its pastpresent, and future, is our Inca culture, and we don’tneed research called genetics to know who we are.We are Incas, always have been and always will be.” – Letter from the Hatun Q’eros Community 30 April 2011SummaryIn early April, Asociación ANDES received word globalization is under intensifying pressure asthat seven researchers from the Genographic highways carve their way into Q’ero territory,Project will arrive in Peru in the first week of bringing potentially exploitative tourismMay to collect human DNA samples from the initiatives and attracting the interest of miningQ’eros people. This information is not widely companies and bioprospectors – like theknown in the Cusco Region because the US- researchers from the Genographic Project.based Genographic Project did not approachlocal or regional authorities about their plan, The Q’eros were not consulted beforehandrather, the Project hired a local tour guide and about the DNA collection which, they have beensent a cursory one page notification of their informed, will take place following aupcoming visit to people in a Q’ero town. presentation on May 7th (2011). The Genographic Project has urged the Q’ero toThe Q’eros are an isolated indigenous group bring children and elders to the DNA collectionwho live in a rural province of the Cusco and, in true neo-colonial style, promises a “fun”Region.1 They are renowned for their shamanic presentation with “pretty pictures” to induceknowledge and self-proclaimed identity as ‘The attendees to offer DNA samples.2Last Incas.’ The Q’eros inhabit a diverse territorythat many would consider inaccessible, and The Genographic Project’s plan presents athey have maintained cultural traditions from challenge to Cusco Region, which is known forpre-Hispanic times. The Q’eros’ decision to efforts to protect its genetic patrimony and forpurposefully maintain their identity and taking a cautious approach to biotechnology. Ittraditions despite the increasing reach of has declared itself a GMO-free region has1 2 Peru’s largest political subdivisions are Regions, which are Letter to persons in Qocha Moqo, Peru concerning Genographicsubdivided into Provinces, which are in turn composed of Districts. Project. 7 April, 2011.Cusco Region is one of 25 regions in Peru. 1
  2. 2. adopted a biopiracy ordinance to regulate researchers at 14 other universities, institutesbioprospecting. Cusco’s ordinances have clear and a DNA sequencing company. The Projectrequirements for bioprospecting collection of planned to end DNA collections in 2010, but itgenetic materials,3 including human DNA, as do still collecting indigenous peoples’ DNA forapplicable international conventions, national reasons that have yet to be publicly, and local customary law. These appear tohave been largely ignored. The Genographic Project was constructed and is steered by architects of the Human GenomeThe Q’ero have decided to resist the Diversity Project (HGDP) and their protégés. It isGenographic Project’s incursion. On 30 April, an uncomfortable heritage. In the 1990s, thefollowing a community assembly, the Q’ero HGDP’s plan to collect blood from indigenouswrote the President of the Cusco Region asking people proved so controversial that it earnedthat the government ensure that the the popular name ‘The Vampire Project.’Genographic Project does not violate Q’erorights and complies with law. The Q’eros In 1997, the HGDP was effectively terminatedemphasized that the Project did not have its when its efforts to obtain US governmentconsent for DNA collections and that Project funding were rejected due to ethicalresearchers are not welcome in Q’ero territory. shortcomings.4 The Genographic Project claims to have solved some of the HGDP’s problems;Many in Cusco will view the Genographic but its own transparency is lacking. Because it isProject’s plans as unethical and exploitative. privately funded, there are few requirementsThe Project’s human bioprospecting has for public disclosure of its activities, andobvious problems with disclosure and informed oversight by government and civil societyconsent, incurs risks of theft of genetic material organizations is highly curtailed.(and data) and genetic discrimination, andarrogantly purports to inform indigenous To obtain DNA, the Genographic Project collectspeople, whose self-identity is not in question, swabs of cheek tissue (which it emphasizes)who they “really” are. And in the false promise and blood samples (not publicly emphasized).of the latter, it may cause averse legal The Project says that it will not create self-consequences to its research subjects. replicating “immortal” cell lines from blood samples, as the HGDP proposed, but that doesn’t mean that the samples are notBackground: The Genographic Project “immortal” in other senses. The samples and sequence data an be indefinitely preserved, andThe Genographic Project is a large scale genetic DNA of interest that seeks to collect DNA samples ofhundreds of thousands of people from around While the Project has identified some thingsthe world, particularly indigenous people. By that it will not do with the samples (e.g. createsequencing and comparing the DNA samples, cell lines), it has not clearly identified the futurethe Project purports to be able to map human genetic studies that it plans, and the relativelymigration over history, one of many purposes few Genographic Project studies published toto which the DNA samples may be put to use. date have focused on scientifically “lowThe computing giant IMB is the principle hanging fruit” (i.e. relatively obvious topics andcorporate sponsor of the Project. Key Project methods). Mainly, these studies havescientists are employed by the US National compared variations in Y chromosomes (theGeographic Society. Members of the Project’s“Genographic Consortium” also include 4 US National Academies of Science 1997. Evaluating Human3 Government of Cusco Region. Ordenanza Regional 048 - 2008 Genetic Diversity. Commission on Life Sciences. URL:CR/GRC.CUSCO contra la biopiratería 2
  3. 3. male chromosome) and in maternally inherited number of perspectives. In the present case,mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Q’ero self-identity is strong, vibrant, and well-One of the activities that the Project says that it recognized. The Genographic Project, however,will not conduct is medical research, but this claims that it will tell the Q’eros scientific truthsdoes not mean that its research may not have about who they are that the Q’eros do notmedical implications. The genetic markers it already know. Among them: If and how thechooses to use may or may not be linked to Q’eros are related to the Incas (as if Inca isdisease predispositions, but either way, now or defined genetically), related to the Aymara (ain the future such implications may become neighbouring indigenous linguistic group), or toapparent. Even though the Y chromosome and “people from the jungle” (i.e. AmazonianmtDNA together constitute a very small peoples).proportion of the human genome, variousconditions have been linked to mutations on Historical claims by molecular biologiststhem. For example, forms of male infertility, sometimes overreach their field of competencedeafness, and diabetes are linked to specific and what can ultimately be concluded throughsequences on the Y chromosome, and an even science and the historical record. They aregreater number of medical conditions is linked influenced by and reliant on assumptions aboutto mtDNA mutations. genetically “isolated” or “inbred” populations that discount historical fluidity of cultures andOf course, mtDNA and the Y chromosome are previous intermarriage. Evidence of thesethe topic of current studies, and are not the shortcomings in attempting to explain humanonly research that will be conducted. The history in the Americas can be found in thesamples contain the full complement of each genetic claims and counterclaims published inparticipants DNA, and it may be expected that the last two decades about possible ancientfuture studies (or current unpublished studies) exchanges between South America, Polynesia,will expand into analysis of other areas of the Asia, and Melanesia as well as varying theoriesgenome. The Genographic Project is notably about migrations from Asia to Alaska (anduninformative about where, for what purposes, thence the rest of the Americas).and under whose control it will store DNAsamples and data for such future uses. Now, thanks to the Genographic Project, the Q’eros could become genetic pawns in newGenetic predispositions and medical theories academic debate over what constitutes an Inca.about them are constantly being identified and While a genetic search for a “real” Inca mightmodified. Thus, even if Genographic Project make for National Geographic TV programming,research that is not explicitly linked to medical it’s unlikely to yield a defensible result or beconditions today, it may become so in the helpful for the Q’eros and other indigenousfuture. When sequences are linked to specific peoples. For the Genographic Project’sindigenous communities there may be direct professors, who have no significant personalsocial and medical consequences. These are not investment in the Q’ero community, the stakesso keenly felt in a large population where are comparatively low – they relate to academicbearers of a particular trait may be dispersed in publications and scientific prestige. For theways that are relatively unpredictable. Q’eros, alleged molecular “proof” or “disproof” of their heritage as the “Last Incas” could have profound and unanticipated social and legalGenetic “Truth” and Consequences consequences.The validity of the genetic results of the Complicating matters is some scientists disdainGenographic Project, as applied to human for indigenous peoples origin stories, and pieceshistory and cultures, are debateable from a of the historical record that don’t fit the 3
  4. 4. contemporary genetic theory. The head of the studies with clear commercial and medicalGenographic Project in Peru, Ricardo Fujita implications.7 For example, a 2002 study byAlarcón, a US-trained molecular biologist, Fujita asserted that 60% of the indigenousreflected this attitude in a 2004 paper on his residents of the Peruvian Lake Titicaca islandsgenetic studies of indigenous people from the of Anapia and Suana8 have a “defective” geneLake Titicaca region. Fujita claims, “The origin of that “predisposes them to infectious diseasesmany contemporary native communities is such as tuberculosis and HIV, and to autoimmuneunknown, of them we only have theories based diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus,on oral traditions or rolls taken by Spanish among others.” According to the study, theconquistadors beginning in the 16th Century.”5 gene was found at the highest frequency everWe, however, have yet to meet any indigenous documented in the Peruvian islanders.9people who don’t know who they are andwhere they come from. It seems then that Fujita Five years later, in 2007, Fujita and Genographicdoesn’t have a great deal of respect for Project researchers returned to Lake Titicaca toindigenous peoples own stories. collect DNA samples from other islanders.10 It is not known if the 2007 Lake Titicaca DNA donors were made aware of Fujita’s publication history.Culture Clash and Confused Purposes Publication of detailed genetic information on small communities impacts personal privacy andIn Andean Peru, the clash of cultures between could contribute to social prejudice orthe Genographic Project and its human research discrimination in medical care, insurance, orsubjects is much deeper than divergent employment. No results of the 2007 collectionshistorical narratives. The leader of the have thus far been made available.Genographic Project in Peru not only believesthat biotechnology will determine the identityof indigenous peoples, but that it also should be The Limits of Promisesa motor of economic development. Forexample, while the Region has declared itself While the Project prohibits commercialGMO-free, Genographic’s Fujita disagrees, and exploitation per se of DNA and data byhas appeared on television to promote members of the Genographic Consortium,agricultural biotechnology, in particular an potentially harmful publications such as thealpaca genetics project that he leads.6 With Anapia study arguably do not constituteCusco’s proud agrocentric culture, such views commercial use. Nor would it seem that thefuel suspicions of the Genographic Project. Genographic Project has any ability to prevent others from commercially exploiting theAlthough the Genographic Project professes to sequence and diversity data that it publishes.have no commercial or medical intent, its Finally, the future disposition of the samples itrepresentatives in Peru are active in biomedical collects is not well-defined and it is unclear ifand pharmacology research related toindigenous peoples. Fujita’s research center, in 7 See URL:the capitol Lima, is pursuing pharmacogenomic, “disease gene”, and medicinal plant ica.php 8 Anapia and Suana are both small, rural islands located in southern Lake Titicaca, east of the Bolivian city of Copacabana. The 20055 Sandoval J et al. 2004. Variantes del ADNmt en isleños del lago Peruvian census recorded 2,400 people on the five islands of theTiticaca: máxima frecuencia del haplotipo B1 y evidencia de efecto Anapia district, an area characterized by very strong indigenousfundador. Rev. peru. biol. 11(2): 161-168. identity and tradition.6 9 Interview on Potential Benefits of Transgenic Crops to Local Sandoval J et al 2002. Alta frecuencia de un haplotipo susceptibleAgriculture and the Future Impact of Modern Biotechnology on the del gen Mannose Binding Lectin, en las islas Anapia-Suana del LagoPeruvian Economy. Channel 21. Cusco, Peru. 2007. URL: Titicaca. Horizonte Medico (Peru). Vol. 2, Nº 1-2. December. 10 and Proyectos del Genographic Project 2011. Fabricio R. Santos (web page). URL:Centro de Genética y Biología Molecular, Canal N. Lima, Peru. 2010. _notes.html (accessed 14 April 2011). 4
  5. 5. the Genographic Project has the ability and will The researchers at each of the regionalto bind future recipients to its terms, or to centers around the world work first withmonitor and prevent hijacking of its samples collaborators and leaders in individualand data. communities not just to explain the Genographic Project, but also to betterHijacking DNA samples collected for one understand how and if those communitiespurpose and applying them to another has been are interested in learning about theira repeated problem with studies on indigenous migratory history, before any otherpeoples’ DNA. A long history of such cases planning takes place. Sampling of DNAexists, and doubtless many more remain to be takes place only when consultation—whichdocumented. In a noted case, the Havasupai may take weeks and months—is completeTribe in the United States challenged and there is both collective and individualresearchers from Arizona State University, interest in participating.banishing them from tribal lands and suingthem in court. The reason: The researchers, Yet the approach to the Q’eros has beenwho collected blood for diabetes research, nothing of the sort. The Q’eros were sent a oneperformed a variety of other studies with them page letter that presents the Project and itsunbeknownst to the Havasupai. These included goals in a single paragraph. DNA is defined as “apublished research identifying the Havasupai’s chemical that all of us have in our bodies thatancestors as Asian, in conflict with the shows our origins and family connections fromHavasupai’s own origin stories.11 centuries ago”, as if its purpose is historical genetics. Then, the letter continues (emphasis in the original):Q’eros 2011: Informed Consent Issues The 7th of May I’ll arrive with 7 people fromThe Q’eros have now been thrust into the National Geographic, from the US and Lima,middle of the Genographic Project and have to give you a presentation on the study atlittle time to determine a course of action. The the Qocha Moqo school. We’re going to useplanned collection of Q’ero DNA is scheduled to a projector and pretty pictures! Please,take place in the community of Qocha Moqo on invite everybody from Qocha Moqo (adults,7 May 2011, even if serious questions about the elders, children) to participate, because thelegality, ownership, disposition, and profitability presentation is going to be very interesting!of the genetic materials remain open. Everything is voluntary, there’s no obligation, but you’re going to have fun andThose questions certainly are not addressed by learn a lot!the Genographic Project’s invitation to the If you want, you can participate in the study.Q’eros to give DNA samples, whose casual tone The benefit is that the people of Q’eros canand threadbare content is at strong odds with know their ancestral roots, that is, know ifthe detailed procedures that the Genographic they are related to the Incas, Aymara, orProject claims to conduct. The Project states people in the jungle. You can learn aboutthat participants grant informed consent that is your origin from centuries and centuries ago.deliberate, considered, individual and collective.According to the Project:12 We’re going to explain well on the 7th of May, so if you don’t understand now, come11 that day and we’ll explain. See Harmon A 2010. Indian Tribe Wins Fight to Limit Research ofIts DNA. New York Times. 22 April. URL: On the basis of that presentation, the Q’ero will12 Genographic Project 2011. Frequently Asked Questions (web be asked to consent to DNA collection. Whilepage). URL: the letter makes clear that participation isqs_about.html (accessed 26 April 2011). 5
  6. 6. voluntary, the consent process it describes “collectivity” appears to be that proportion ofcannot be remotely reconciled with what the the people from a single settlement that care toGenographic Project says are its procedures: attend the Project’s presentation.• The Genographic Project claims that it • The explanation of what the Genographicconducts a consultation process “before any Project is, and attendant ethical and legalother planning takes place”, but this collection issues, is glib and undetailed. Even if it iswas planned down to date, exact location, and elaborated upon at the Project’s presentation,time of day before the Q’eros were contacted. the Q’ero would have no opportunity to consult alternative sources of information before being• The Genographic Project says that its asked to donate DNA. This flies in the face ofconsultation process is lengthy and detailed, the Project’s claim that prior informed consentand “may take weeks and months”. For the is considered and deliberate.Q’eros, however, Genographic plans a singlepowerpoint presentation immediately before • There is no indication that the Genographiccollecting DNA. This “fun” presentation with Project has obtained legal permission to“pretty pictures” manages to invoke the sordid conduct the collections, another practice thelegacy of religious prosthelytizing with mirrors Project claims to follow.and trinkets, although the Bible has now beenreplaced by a DNA sequencer as the ultimate Analysis of Q’ero genetic material, meant tofont of truth. determine migration patterns, could impact the interests and aspirations of the Q’eros and• The Genographic Project claims that it other indigenous nations, in particulardetermines that communities are “interested in perceptions of their historical identity andlearning about their migratory history” (or, at contemporary affiliation with traditionalleast, the version of it that Genographic offers). ‘homelands.’ The Genographic Project’s findingsYet there is no such determination here. have potential to become arguments to vacateInstead, the Q’ero are presumed to be legal title to territory, erode cultural cohesioninterested in what genetics has to offer, which and inflame state-community conflicts over landis presented as objective truth rather than and natural wealth. Resource extractiveevolving science. Access to this information is industries, for example, have a pressing interestused as an inducement to participate (a in invalidating land claims, cultural practice and“benefit”). identity that are perpetuated through national memory, and livelihoods are that rooted in• The Genographic Project claims to be traditional knowledge, which may conflict withinterested in indigenous perspectives on the activities such as commercial mining.Project, yet it expresses no interest in theQ’eros perspective, nor could they effectivelyshape the Project design as the Q’eros’ only The Genographic Project Study of theopportunity to express them is at the time of Seaconke Wampanoag TribeDNA collection. The only publication to date by the Genographic• The Genographic Project claims to seek Project that is focused on an indigenous peoplecollective consent, but there is no apparent in the Americas is a case in point as to why theeffort to do so here. It would be physically Q’eros have reason to be concerned. The 2010impossible for the Q’ero of Qocha Moqo to study is on the Seaconke Wampanoag people ofconsult with other Q’ero communities in the the northeastern United States, and it appearstime allowed to contemplate the Genographic to significantly damage their attempt to gainProject’s proposition. In this case, the legal recognition. 6
  7. 7. Although the study includes Wampanoag co- make a decision.17 Lack of recognition meansauthors, and it recounts their history in unusual the US government does not acknowledgedetail for such a publication, what matters in a Seaconke Wampanoag sovereignty.18genetics publication is genetics. And theconclusion is inescapable: “our study did notfind any maternal Native American lineages in the Implications for the Qeros, Indigenous PeoplesSeaconke Wampanoag tribe”. 13 What that in Peru, and Around the Worldmeans is that the Genographic Project claimsthat Seaconke Wampanoag women are recent Like many indigenous communities, the Q’erosarrivals from Europe and Africa and are not and their agroecological knowledge and“genetic” Native Americans. traditional livelihoods are already seriously threatened by biopiracy and extractiveSeaconke Wampanoag men fared little better. industries. The Q’eros are presently in theThe Genographic Project claims that they are a crosshairs of the Genographic Project, but theymix of Native American, European, African, and are far from the only indigenous people to faceMelanesian. It adds that none of the “Native it. Most of the issues facing the Q’ero are manifestations of larger problems raised by theAmerican DNA” it found could be conclusivelylinked to the historical indigenous inhabitants of Genographic Project that effect not only otherthe US northeast.14 indigenous peoples from whom the Project is taking DNA samples, but all indigenous peoples whose traditions and identities are challengedIn short, if the Seaconke Wampanoag were by Western genetic science and the economiclooking to the Genographic Project for support and belief systems associated with it. Some ofof their appeal for recognition by the US these legal, ethical, economic, and culturalgovernment, as has been reported,15 the study issues are summarized below:was an unmitigated disaster for the tribe. Willthis paper will be presented to the Q’eros? Political/Legal: By visiting Indigenous communities in Cusco and collecting DNAWhether or not one is confident in the without contacting the regional government,Genographic Project’s result, or believe that it is the Genographic Project will violate Cusco’sculturally significant even if it were empirically sovereignty and standing ordinance oncorrect,16 the Seaconke Wampanoag’s attempts bioprospecting.19 As agents of a foreign entity,to gain recognition by the US government have Project researchers should make theirbeen dealt a setback. The genetics results can intentions fully known beforehand to governingbe interpreted as adverse evidence with respect bodies – state, regional, and Indigenous – andto several criteria used by the government to acquire appropriate approvals.13 Zhadanov SI et al 2010. Genetic heritage and native identity ofthe Seaconke Wampanoag tribe of Massachusetts. Am J Phys The Project’s ambiguity about storage ofAnthropol. 2010 Aug;142(4):579-89.14 samples and data raises more legal questions, In other words, the Genographic Project claims, even theproportion of Seaconke Wampanoag men with ‘Native American’ Y including human rights. The consent procedureschromosome DNA may be recent migrants from other areas of that the Genographic Project says it hasNorth America, meaning that the DNA may not represent a genetic adopted have been have flagrantly disregardedartifact of Seaconke Wampanoag identity.15 See TallBear K 2007. Narratives of Race and Indigeneity in theGenographic Project. Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics 35:3, 17citing press accounts. Also well-worth reading for its other discusion US Code of Federal Regulations, 25 CFR 83. Procedures foron the Genographic Project. Establishing that an American Indian Group Exists as an Indian Tribe.16 18 The Wampanoag are widely known to have intermarried with For interesting further commentary on this article see: TallBear Kother people for many generations, a fact that does not inherently 2010. Genographic and the Seaconke Wampanoag (web page).dilute their indigenous identity, and which the authors point out. URL: in the mode of thinking of molecular biology, however, genetic and-the-seaconke-wampanoag.html 19evidence of this already known fact can easily construed to Ordenanza Regional 048 - 2008 CR/GRC. CUSCO contra laundermine their legal claims. biopiratería. 7
  8. 8. in the Q’eros case and do not appear to satisfy Peru. In reality, informed consent may beapplicable law. Further, in the future, with impossible without specialized training instored samples, can informed consent be genetics and medicine, without which it isobtained for future procedures or technologies difficult to evaluate the claims of the scientists.that do not yet exist? Granted that theGenographic Project states that participants The Genographic Project’s communication withmay withdraw at any time, but will they be the Q’eros characterizes the DNA collection as aaware of the future location and use of these “fun” social event that every man, woman, andsamples? child should attend. It skirts the serious issues inherent in human genetic research, suggestingArticle 31 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of that the Project holds only rewards for theIndigenous People declares that “Indigenous Q’eros, and not risks. This tactic renders apeoples have the right to maintain, control, balanced consideration of participationprotect and develop their cultural heritage, impossible. Rather than discuss risks, thetraditional knowledge and traditional cultural Genographic Project suggests it may geneticallyexpressions”. By collecting indigenous peoples trace Q’eros ancestry to the Incas. TheseDNA, storing it for future research under non- promises are speculative and obscure both riskindigenous control, and purporting to and scientific uncertainty.21determine cultural heritage by genetics, doesthe Genographic Project not seek, by design, to Economic: The Genographic Project’s scientistsusurp the rights of indigenous people? To say may conclude that indigenous peoples are notnothing of the other potential legal abuses that descended from the original inhabitants of theircould result from neglect or deliberate act by territories, but migrants from other lands. Thisthe Project, such as disenfranchisement and is not a hypothetical concern, as demonstrateddiscrimination? by the Genographic Project’s study of the Wampanoag. There is a related risk in someEthical: The Genographic Project was never regions that the Project could ‘discover’ thatintended to serve the needs or interest of Indigenous groups are not genetically ‘pure,’Indigenous Peoples, but to satisfy the curiosity but instead are ‘admixed’ with European orof Western scientists. Indigenous Peoples were other ancestry. Such findings have potential tonot consulted about the Project when it was in endanger territorial claims and legalthe planning stages. The Project created a code recognitions. And in an even crueller twist ofof ethics for itself and by itself, a dubious fate, depending upon where in the genome thestrategy in any circumstance, evidenced by the Project looks for its evidence, or upon futurefact that it is violating its own published research, these ‘discoveries’ are subject toprocedures in its approach to the Q’eros. revision.Because of its use of living people as the Such discussions about the significance ofsubjects of scientific research designed to genetic evidence for migration or intermarriageanswer academic questions and lack of intent to may suit comfortably ensconced professors’provide Indigenous participants with any academic purposes just fine; but it is unjust totangible benefit, the initiative is exploitative.The collection of samples was halted in Alaska, 21 Another ethical aspect that merits its own analysis is thefor example, because consent forms were Genographic Project’s Legacy Fund, which makes small donations toimproperly explained to the local community,20 cultural preservation projects. The lack of relevant links betweenand ethical problems are again surfacing in the DNA research at hand and Indigenous Peoples’ cultural continuity is troubling. Without stronger justification, the Legacy Fund cannot cogently counter accusations that its function is to deflect attention from predatory elements of the research, making it20 Harmon A 2006. DNA Gatherers Hit Snag: Tribes Don’t Trust essentially a ‘whitewashing’ effort, or an attempt to simply buyThem. New York Times. 10 December. Indigenous participation. 8
  9. 9. subject the territorial claims and self-identities confusing what is flashy with what is valid andof Indigenous human cultures to their young meaningful. This clash of scientific findings andand evolving science, particularly when it traditional knowledge of tribal historypurports to provide objective truth. If happened in the case of the Havasupai.Indigenous territorial claims are so threatened,this opens the door for transnational actors – By virtue of their conscious cultural andparticularly corporations, which already operate geographic separation, the Q’eros are especiallywith too few legal and ethical constraints – to vulnerable to Western modes of organizing ofmove in and begin extracting the natural culture and knowledge, wherein the local andresource wealth of the region. customary must give way to the (Euro-)modern. Certain cultural expressions of the Q’eros areMining interests are already poised to stake a particularly vulnerable to the aggressiveclaim in Q’ero territory, while similar corporate promotion of alien hierarchies. Their status asambitions have surfaced all across Peru. If shamans, for example, whose knowledge isscientists announce that, in their opinion, the almost by definition set in opposition to (andQ’eros are not Indigenous to the region, their ranked below) scientific understandings ofhold on their territory is rendered more natural and human phenomena.precarious, and may be weighed againstcompeting interests in the land and the material More broadly, the Q’eros view of themselveswealth found therein. A logical extension of and of history, as well as the view of the nation’non-Indigenous’ status would also hold that, taken by outsiders, may be substantially alteredsince they are not originally from Qocha Moqo, by the planned research. Self-definition andany other geographical location should suit the self-determination (recognized and protectedQ’eros equally well, in which case relocation of by the International Labour Organization’sthis community becomes a possibility. Convention No.169, among other legal instruments) may be overridden by scientificSocio-cultural: It is misleading to assert that hypotheses of origin and migration, andgenetic research exists independently of public political opinions about the resulting legal andperceptions of groups, or that scientific ethical claims.assertions are a neutral or benign parallelnarrative to indigenous cultures’ own Other Considerations: Even if the Genographicknowledge. Scientists have their own ideas Project was otherwise commendable, randomabout Indigenous cultures, which often conflict samples that test for very narrow markerswith local knowledge and can be damaging to cannot provide reliable or more widely usefulthat knowledge. The Project acknowledges information, and these results will probablythat the narratives can be different; but not that raise as many questions as they answer. It isits own can be damaging. Science and history therefore wise to ask whether this research isare not the same in Western and indigenous really even productive in the service of Westerncultures, and when they are in opposition the knowledge, or whether it will actually produceWestern model is usually been taken as the greatest benefits for its ‘parent’ companies‘truthful’ while Indigenous knowledge is (The National Geographic Society and IBM) andlabelled ‘superstition’ and ‘myth,’ despite the the reputations of the researchers involved.inherently provisional nature of scientific‘evidence.’ Concerns about hidden agendas arise not only from the huge financial interest inEven within the most traditional communities, bioinformatics of project sponsor IBM but inbecause what is Western is often seen as Peru specifically from the fact that the in-‘modern’ or ‘cosmopolitan,’ it easily captures country director of the Genographic Project isthe attention (particularly of youth) based on both an advocate of agricultural biotechnology 9
  10. 10. and performs biomedical genetic studies on precedents for any similar researchindigenous people – both things that the undertakings that may follow in its wake.Genographic Project states that it is notinvolved in. This has special relevance for To begin this process, Asociación ANDES andagrocentric cultures, such as the Quechua; the Indigenous communities of the Cuscoregions that have banned genetically-modified region of Peru call on representatives of theorganisms, such as Cusco; and delicate, Genographic Project to respect the Q’erosmegadiverse ecosystems that house the centre decision not to participate in their project, andof origin of key food crops, such as the Andes. to attend a public forum in order to answer questions and concerns about their research, both undertaken and planned. Further, thisRecommendations dialogue should be followed up by bringing all articulated concerns, along with the results ofThe extent and seriousness of the concerns the public forum, to the global community, viaabout the Genographic Project call for an the United Nations.immediate halt to, and review of its researchactivity. Indigenous peoples’ communities, Ultimately, we assert that the minimumnations, and organizations; institutions of local, acceptable standard for continuation for theregional, state, and global governance; and Genographic Project is that Indigenous Peopleshuman rights, social justice, and development participate fully in every facet of the research,agencies must ally in support of a thorough, including wielding veto power over any aspectformal, transparent, and independent of the Project.investigation into the mandate and activities ofthe Genographic Project, and set firm Published in May 2011 by Asociación ANDES Ruinas 451 Cusco PERU Tel: +51 84 245021 Fax: +51 84 245021 10