A recent ad for the Danish travel site Momondo highlights a truth that is widely ignored – no matter what race we belong to, we are all related to each other. A well-tossed salad bowl, maybe, but our common genetic roadmap extends backwards to converge on the earliest forms of life.
The campaign, titled “The DNA Journey” invited 67 participants (most quite sure of their heritage) to undergo DNA tests. The results, of course, were surprising, as the video above shows. Since this is an ad and needs to be engaging, the reactions may seem a bit over the top, but are probably no less true for that reason.
Some of the participants who expressed their dislike for particular nationalities, were especially shocked to discover they were genetically related to their objects of hatred. A Kurdish woman who didn’t like the Turkish turned out to be genetically Turkish. Likewise for a British man who had some prejudices against Germans.
An Icelandic man who was convinced of his superiority was pulled back to earth, so to speak, when the test revealed him to be a mix of several European nationalities.
However, the science behind these ethnicity tests is iffy. The results depend on the database of the company you pick for the test, and since yours is a drop in the human genome ocean, the accuracy may not be spot-on.
A 2008 article in the journal Science about ancestry DNA testing says, “There's building concern among geneticists and others that the tests performed, both by companies and in academic labs, may not be very accurate, largely because they match samples to 'reference' populations of a particular ancestor who may or may not perfectly fit the desired profile. So, for example, to determine how much African ancestry someone has, their DNA is matched against a true 'African' sample, but not everyone agrees on what this is, and even if they did, that African may have ancestry that's more mixed than can be gleaned from current techniques.”
There are at present three major companies offering these tests – 23and me, Family Tree DNA and Ancestry. Out of these, Family Tree DNA offers tests for India as well, and a few Indian companies also offer this service.
The hunt for one’s origins is certainly intriguing. Watch these videos of the individual reactions to the test findings. In the one below, Aurelie, a woman who believed she was completely French, finds she isn’t, after all.
Carlos, a Cuban model was among the most ethnically diverse of the group, “a real man of the world” as he puts it.
A Russian woman, Yanina, was more aware of being a genetic mix at the start, but is still pleasantly surprised to discover she is four per cent Chinese and Japanese.
The ad was created by the ad agency &Co, in collaboration with a DNA testing service, AncestryDNA. The travel site is inviting people to take DNA tests as part of a contest. The winner gets to travel to all the places of their origin, or to their favourite one.