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New genome project, new controversy

This month, National Geographic and IBM launched the Genographic Project, an ambitious attempt to trace human migration out of Africa during the last 50,000 to 60,000 years.

Graciela Flores

This month, National Geographic and IBM launched the Genographic Project, an ambitious attempt to trace human migration out of Africa during the last 50,000 to 60,000 years. The project, led by geneticist and anthropologist Spencer Wells, aims to collect 100,000 blood samples from aboriginal groups worldwide and more from the general public.

The project promises to generate controversy, as did its counterpart, the Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP). The HGDP was developed in 1991 to map the genetic diversity of hundreds of human populations, but it was soon labeled racist and accused of conducting "imperialistic science," according to Kenneth Weiss of Pennsylvania State University, a former HGDP executive committee member. As a result, the project never got the expected federal funding.

"The Genographic Project might meet similar criticism," says Weiss, who is not involved in the new project. "After all, some of the lead board members of both projects-such as...

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