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The Genographic Project

The Genographic Project, launched in April 2005, is a five-year genetic anthropology study that aims to map historical human migration patterns by collecting and analyzing DNA samples from hundreds of thousands of people from around the world.



Field researchers at 10 regional centers around the world collect DNA samples from indigenous populations. The company also sells self-testing kits: for US$100 anyone in the world can order a self-testing kit from which a mouth scraping (buccal swab) is obtained, analyzed and the DNA information placed on an Internet accessible database. The genetic markers on mitochondrial DNA (HVR1) and Y-chromosomes (12 markers) are used to trace the customers distant ancestry, and each customer is provided with their genetic history. As of January 2008, more than 240,000 people have bought a test kit. The US$40m project is a privately-funded, nonprofit collaboration between the National Geographic Society, IBM and the Waitt Family Foundation. Part of the proceeds from the sale of self-testing kits support the Genographic Project's ongoing DNA collection[1], but the majority are ploughed into a Legacy Fund to be spent on cultural preservation projects nominated by indigenous communities.

Prominent team members are:

  • Spencer Wells, project director (National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence)
  • Jin Li, principal investigator, East Asia
  • Fabricio Santos, principal investigator, South America
  • Jaume Bertranpetit, principal investigator, Western and Central Europe
  • Pierre Zalloua, principal investigator, Middle East and North Africa
  • Himla Soodyall, principal investigator, Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Simon Longstaff, advisory board chair
  • Meave Leakey, advisory board member
  • Merritt Ruhlen, advisory board member
  • Colin Renfrew, advisory board member
  • Wade Davis, advisory board member
  • Ajay Royyuru, head of computational biology, IBM

The Genographic Project is undertaking widespread consultation with indigenous groups from around the world. The Advisory Board includes Luigi Cavalli-Sforza, the geneticist who originally proposed the Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP).


See also: Archaeology of the Americas, Models of migration to the New World

Shortly after the announcement of the project in April 2005, the Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism, (IPCB), released a statement protesting the project, its connections with the HGDP, and called for a boycott of IBM, Gateway Computers, and National Geographic. Around May of 2006, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues recommended suspending the project.

As of December 2006 some federally recognized tribes in North America have declined to take part. "What the scientists are trying to prove is that we’re the same as the Pilgrims except we came over several thousand years before,” said Maurice Foxx, chairman of the Massachusetts Commission on Indian Affairs and a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag. "Why should we give them that openly?"[2] However, more than 30,000 indigenous participants from the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe have joined the project as of January 2008.

See also

Genographic Project public participation kits are processed by Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) using the Arizona Research Labs at the University of Arizona.


  1. ^ Michael Shapiro (October/November 2007). The Ancestors' Ancestors. Hana Hou! Vol. 10 #5. Retrieved on 2007-10-18.
  2. ^ "DNA Gatherers Hit Snag: Tribes Don’t Trust Them", by Amy Harmon of The New York Times, December 10, 2006.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "The_Genographic_Project". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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