Controversial Advertising Strategy

The idea that genetic differences exist between ethnicities is the basis of a growing and controversial advertising strategy for a $2 trillion market. Much of the money is tied to skin-care supplies, such as Rx for Brown Skin, a line that debuted this fall at Sephora. GenSpec is the first "genetically specific" multivitamin for blacks, whites and Hispanics. And Nike makes the Air Native for Native Americans with wider-than-average forefeet.

But experts doubt the data behind these products; New York University sociologist Troy Duster says the phony "biomarket" could lead people to "slip into thinking" that classroom and athletic performance are also explained by genetics.