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Our genes inhabit our bodies, which inhabit many communities: our extended family, our workplace, our place of worship, our school, our neighborhood. As geneticists look more deeply into genes, health, and the environment, they have begun to take “community” into account, too.
How do cultural differences and social inequalities form part of the system in which our genes operate? How does race, ethnicity, or economic status affect the environmental exposures that interact with our genomes? Can our genetic ancestry guide our understanding of our historical relationships and our health?
Our place within a community can influence the way in which we interpret genetic science and how it affects us personally. Our access to medicine and its importance in our lives can vary with community. Our ability to respond to climate change depends on our economic and social resources as a people, whether as a nation or a neighborhood. Our culture and our neighborhood influences whether we grow our food, whom we buy it from, and the quality we expect. Food safety can take on a different meaning when you are a farmer or when most of your food comes from overseas.
Our communities can affect our access to genetic knowledge and to science more generally. They are an important factor in debates over the risks and rewards of genetic technology.