Bioethics Blogs

Bioethics & Wine

I
never thought I’d have the opportunity to use this blog title. Never, that is,
until I stumbled across a company called
Vinome, a California
start-up that offers a curated wine service based on a customer’s individual
taste profile. What makes this wine subscription service unique is not its
price (although, at around
$65 a bottle, it’s just a
bit outside of the typical price-per-bottle for many wine club members). At
Vinome, your taste profile includes not only a list of questions about your
preferences, but also information from DNA sequencing from the saliva sample
you provide to the company. The company website proclaims this is “A little
science and a lot of fun,” but
experts are skeptical about whether
there is any science involved at all.

Holding
aside the question of scientific plausibility, companies touting
direct-to-consumer genetic screening for ancestry, medical issues, or just
plain fun include information in the fine print that would give any bioethicist
pause. While the Vinome website requires patrons to check the box indicating “I
have read and understand the Vinome Informed Consent” prior to ordering, that “informed
consent” is only available if the customer
voluntarily
clicks on the informed consent link. Buried at the bottom of the informed
consent screen is a sentence that reads:

 

“You allow
Vinome to retain your data as part of Vinome’s secure research database, for
use by Vinome or its research affiliates, in an effort to improve and expand
services. If any commercial product is developed as a result of the use of your
data, there will be no financial benefit to you.”

 

In
case the business interests are still unclear, here is more from their Terms of
Service:

 

“By submitting
DNA to Vinome, you grant Vinome a perpetual, royalty-free, world-wide,
transferable license to use your de-identified DNA, and to use, host,
sublicense and distribute the anonymous resulting analysis to the extent and in
the form or context we deem appropriate on or through any media or medium and
with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed or discovered.”

 

That’s
quite a sweeping consent, and one of which I suspect most customers will never be
aware.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.