In the past year, South Dakota, Alabama, Massachusetts, and Vermont have proposed related bills that attempt to define genetic data as personal property. So far, none of those bills have become law.
The California Senate Appropriations Committee is currently considering the bill and will decide by 25 May whether its potential fiscal impacts outweigh its merits. If passed by the committee, the measure would move to the Senate floor for a vote this summer. Any Senate bill approved must still pass through the Assembly before it can be signed into law by the governor.
Padilla says that the bill and its terms are still in their early stages, and he is receiving "constructive" feedback from stakeholders, including California researchers. But he stands by the core principles of the measure.
"If we think of the lengths we go to protect financial information or credit card numbers, it seems to me that your genetic information is both much more personal and much more valuable than anything else that we currently protect," he says. "I think society as a whole could benefit if this bill is passed and signed into law."
Penalties for violating the California bill would range from $1,000 to $10,000.
This article is reproduced with permission from the magazine Nature. The article was first published on May 18, 2012.