Practice Multiple choice questions in IELTS reading with this complete text.
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A. Forensic science – the science related to the solving of a legal issue or a crime – has been glamorised of late due to the growing number of popular television series based around the subject. In fact, very few programmes or movies focusing on detective topics make no reference to genetic fingerprinting, DNA testing and profiling and its significance in fighting crime and convicting criminals. Such elements of science allow investigators to distinguish between individuals based on differences in their samples of DNA.
B. DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is one of two molecules found in living things that encodes genetic information, the other being RNA. Our genetic make up determines our characteristics and is hereditary, in that we inherit our DNA and consequently certain characteristics from our parents. Links between family members can therefore be identified by examination of DNA. An historic example of this application was illustrated by the case of Anna Anderson, who in the 1920s claimed she was Princess Anastasia of Russia; however, after her death in the 1980s, post-mortem testing of her DNA indicated that there was no genetic evidence that she was related to the royal Romanov dynasty. Examination of DNA has resulted in successful identification of numerous human remains where genetic links have been established with living relatives.
C.The process of DNA testing was discovered by Sir Alec Jeffreys of the University of Leicester, UK in 1985. Whilst the majority of DNA in humans is the same, some unique differences are also apparent in each individual’s genetic profile. Genetic fingerprinting works on the basis that matches between these differences within a person’s genetic profile and a sample of DNA derived from trace evidence (such as saliva or hair found at a crime scene) which exhibits the same genetic differences link that person with the sample and therefore the situation in question. Genetic fingerprinting, however, cannot determine differences between identical twins as these individuals have genetic profiles identical to each other.
D. Genetic fingerprinting is not infallible and it is unlikely that juries will convict a suspect based purely on DNA evidence if other factors in the case seem to prove innocence, or at least reasonable doubt that the suspect is guilty of the crime. Conversely, there have also been cases where criminals have planted fake DNA at crime scenes in order to bring their guilt into question. In a Canadian trial in 1992, a doctor accused of a crime went to the lengths of inserting a false blood sample into his body through the use of a medical drain, which resulted in blood samples being taken which showed no similarities to those from the crime scene samples. Three separate samples of blood, which never showed a match, were taken and analysed before the fraud was discovered in a final test which led to his conviction.
E.1987 was a significant year for highlighting the effectiveness of DNA evidence. In that year, the first arrest based upon genetic fingerprinting was made in Leicester, UK – the home of the procedure – and it was also the first year in which a conviction based on DNA evidence was achieved in the USA. However, DNA evidence and its statistical accuracy have been known to cause confusion for juries, particularly in the early period of its introduction. Experts acknowledge that there is a 1 in 5 million probability that a genetic match could occur by chance. Defence lawyers could translate this to mean that in a population of 60 million people for example, that 11 other people, and not just the person accused of the crime, would also be seen to match the profile of genetic evidence collected during investigation, showing reasonable doubt that the accused was guilty of the crime. Whilst the argument has some basis in fact, probabilities are dramatically altered when consideration is given to the truth of the situation, in that only 1 of those 12, i.e. the accused, had been arrested for the crime due to other factors including proximity, relationship with the victim, other non-genetic based evidence etc. In addition, whilst the risks of laboratory error during analysis are slim, awareness of such risks can also alter juries’ perceptions of the validity of evidence shown.
F. Despite occasional doubts, genetic fingerprinting and DNA testing procedures have evolved to significantly impact on criminal investigations. In addition to assisting with the conviction of criminals, DNA evidence over recent years has also resulted in the over-turning of past convictions and freedom for people now seen to have been wrongly accused of a crime. In 1989, a Chicago man was the first person to be freed and have a conviction overturned based on new evidence brought to light using DNA testing. By December 2005, over 160 people in the USA alone had been freed from prison due to post-conviction DNA evidence.
G. Legislation regarding DNA testing varies from country to country and even state to state. Testing is usually voluntary, for example during a murder investigation in the 1990s in Perth, Australia, where the suspect was considered to be a taxi driver, police called for all taxi drivers in the area to volunteer to give DNA samples in order to rule them out of the investigation. Provision of DNA samples, however, can also be made compulsory by search warrant or court order if other evidence suggests an individual is likely to be guilty of a crime. Throughout the world, DNA databases have been established and are continuing to become more extensive; however, civil liberties groups object to the invasion of privacy and intrusion of human rights posed by such records, particularly when samples taken from suspects who are ultimately proven innocent are not deleted.
H. In addition to its uses in forensic science, genetic fingerprinting has other equally significant applications. It has resulted in developments in paternity testing, where the identity of the father of a child comes into question, and matching of organ donors to those in need of a replacement liver, kidney or other organ. The procedure’s importance and impact on modern society are unquestionable.
Questions 1 – 2 Choose the correct letter A – D.
1. DNA testing has…
- successfully confirmed the true identity of Princess Anastasia
- allowed investigators to confirm the identity of members of the Romanov dynasty
- removed the possibility that Anna Anderson was genetically linked to Russian royalty
- created new questions regarding the function of RNA
2. DNA testing is…
- possible as a large proportion of a persons DNA is individual to them
- viable as people display small but significant differences in DNA
- able to differentiate between identical siblings
- not possible on hair left at a crime scene
Questions 3 – 4 Choose TWO letters, A-E. Write your answers in boxes 3 – 4 on your answer sheet. Which TWO of the following statements are true of the medical practitioner in Canada?
- He avoided detection by modifying his own DNA
- His conviction was overturned due to DNA evidence
- He used another person’s blood in a DNA test
- He was eventually convicted because other evidence linked him to the crime
- The fourth DNA test revealed the deception
Question 5. Choose the correct letter A – D.
When was the first person found guilty in America based upon DNA evidence?
Questions 6 – 9. Choose the correct letter A – D.
6. How has DNA improved the justice system?
- Errors cannot be made in processing evidence
- Because some wrongly accused have been proven innocent
- It has led to the development of DNA databases
- It can alter juries’ perceptions
7. DNA samples, when requested by the police, are…
- compulsory under any circumstances
- no longer voluntary when suspicions are already raised
- only available post conviction
- only available in some countries or states
8. DNA databases are controversial because…
- they are becoming more widely used
- are likely to eventually store information for the entire population
- variations in collection exist
- details of acquitted defendants are not removed
9. Which of the following is the most suitable title for Reading Passage 1? A. Genetics – fact or fiction? B.The future of genetic fingerprinting C. Applications of genetic identification D.The ethics of genetic testing