If you’re a fan of popular television shows like CSI, Criminal Minds or Law and Order, then you probably know all about DNA—or at least, you know that Police can use DNA to solve all manner of serious crimes. If you’ve never watched those shows, but you like the daytime drama of Maury or Jerry Springer, you also know all about DNA from episodes entitled – Who’s Your Baby’s Daddy! As old as the practice of DNA testing is, it’s not done in Belize – not yet, at least. But the National Forensic Science Service is making a first and critical step as that unit conducted a Belize Population Genetic Study aimed at gathering information which will be vital to the establishment of DNA testing. Freelance Reporter, Mike Rudon, has that story.

Diana Bol, Forensic Analyst

“What we are doing, we are doing a research study in collaboration with the University of North Texas. We are looking at the different profiles of the country of Belize. as you know Belize is very rich with the different diverse ethnic groups and you might have similarities between the ethnic groups and differences between them as well. So what we are doing, we are looking at the different DNA markers within individuals to see what the trends in our population look like. DNA is—from person to person—ninety-nine percent the same, but it is that one percent that makes us unique. So it is looking at the difference in that one percent that this study will be focused on.”

Mike Rudon, Reporting

Diana Bol has been working in this field since 1994, and she says that the information gathered today at this site set up by the National Forensic Science Service is critical if Belize is to catch up with the rest of the region and the world, at least as far as DNA testing is concerned.

Diana Bol

The regions around us already have this study in place. This study is needed because in Forensics, it is comparison. So for us to do DNA on any case, we need to have this standard so that we can break it down into a scientific equation where we can say between one and a million, you are on target with this being a match. So that is what we are looking at. This study is just one step towards establishing DNA in Belize.”

Diana Bol

Convincing people to go give a DNA sample – now that’s a horse of a totally different color. It sounds painful, and complicated, and intrusive. But it actually wasn’t. The entire process took less than a minute, from the recording of the sex and ethnicity of the volunteer….to a swab of the inside of the mouth…to sealing the sample. Totally anonymous and pain-free! Even I did it.

Diana Bol

“The government has indicated that DNA to be established in Belize and we have commenced that project to do DNA in Belize. At this moment, the Forensic laboratory, we do cases, we study the cases that are being sent to us to see the potential DNA and have been trying to outsource for DNA to actually come about with these cases. So yes, this is one step for us and—to maintain it in Belize—we need to have studies like these done for our country.”

Currently samples are being sent to Jamaica for testing, a process which takes anywhere between two and three weeks. At about eleven this morning, when we were there, only about twenty persons had visited the booth to submit their samples. The unit needs three hundred samples to conduct a comprehensive study. Mike Rudon for News Five.

According to members of the National Forensic Science Service, a lot of the credit for the conducting of the genetic study and push for DNA testing in Belize goes to Shahida Flores, a Belizean studying forensics at the University of North Texas. Flores, we are told, plans to return to Belize to work in the field. If you didn’t submit your sample today but would like to do so, a booth will be set up at the B.D.F. Family Fair at Price Barracks on Saturday.       

Channel 5