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French ban on home DNA testing can't stop the Christmas craze

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French ban on home DNA testing can't stop the Christmas craze
Photo: AFP
12:27 CET+01:00
Do-it-yourself DNA testing is officially banned in France but that doesn't mean that the French have avoided being swept along by the craze that has already hit the US and UK.
DNA testing kits appear to be everywhere this Christmas, at least if you're in the US or UK. 
 
But even though home testing kits are banned in France, the French haven't avoided the craze although it's not at the same level as in the US or the UK.
 
So, what exactly is a home DNA testing kit?
 
A DNA testing kit is a way of finding out where in the world your ancestors come from and your chances of developing a serious illness by swabbing your cheek and spitting into a test tube. 
 
Once you've performed the test at home you send the samples off to a lab.
 
You can then set up an online account where your DNA results will appear, as well as your ethnicity and some services also bring up profiles of anyone who matches your DNA which are updated as more people take the test. 
 
Connie Moultroup (R) with her mother Genevieve Purinton (L) after reuniting thanks to DNA testing in the US. Photo: AFP
 
You can even contact any people who have matching DNA through the service and all for the fairly affordable price of €80. 
 
What's the law in France?
 
Unlike in the US and UK, DNA testing has been banned in France since 1994 under the loi de bioetiques (law of bioethics). 
 
The only way you can take a DNA test legally is by getting medical approval or a court order allowing you to undergo one. 
 
Anyone who breaks the law faces a fine of up to €3,750.
 
Why is it banned?
 
French doctors have pointed out that as the popularity of these tests has increased, they have seen more patients who are worried about the results. 
 
"We regularly have consultations with people because they had no idea what they were getting in to," Professor Stanislas Lyonnet, director of an institute on genetic diseases told the French press.
 
"They did a test they thought would be fun but they are often actually receiving crucial and sometimes scientifically sound information."
 
Lyonnet went on to say that people might find out they are "a carrier of cystic fibrosis, they have a risk of having Huntington's disease, they have a risk of breast cancer or ovarian cancer ... This comes without further information or medical guidance so finding it out from under a Christmas tree is really ridiculous!"
 
Some have also suggested the reason for the ongoing ban is to "preserve the peace" in French families, with many incidents of people taking the test and discovering information such as that one of their parents isn't actually theirs. 
 
But is it stopping people from buying them in France?
 
While the French don't seem to be as taken with the idea of home testing kits as Americans and Brits from what we've seen in the French press, they don't seem to have avoided the craze altogether. 
 
And as a result, they have found some effective ways of getting around the law, with people ordering them online from countries where it is legal such the US, Switzerland and Belgium. 
 
According to a report in Europe 1, an estimated 100,000 people in France have had their DNA sequenced using a home kit and a poll carried out by Le Figaro in August revealed that 78 percent of respondents wanted France to lift the ban on DNA tests. 
 
 
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