Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP)
The Human Genome Diversity Project was started in 1991 with the aim of illuminating how humanity spread from its origins in Africa and populated the globe. The project collected blood samples with a specific focus on indigenous peoples, whom the researchers perceived as isolated for a long time and dying out.
The project generated scientific controversy over its ethical, methodological, and theoretical premises. Several anthropologists argued that the very idea of genetically isolated indigenous peoples was an empirically unjustified holdover from the racial ideas of the colonialist era. By systematically looking for genetic differences between culturally defined groups, critics argued, the project could ultimately provide support for racial prejudices.
In 1993, the World Congress of Indigenous Peoples labeled it the “Vampire Project”. Indigenous groups worldwide demanded the project be halted on the grounds of disregard for their worldviews, possible patenting and exploitation of their genomic material, and lack of informed consent.
Photo: Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, (2005). "The Human Genome Diversity Project: past, present and future", Nature Reviews Genetics 6, 333-340.