A thought-provoking illustration depicting Chinese biotech corporations collecting genetic data from unsuspecting American citizens. In the foreground, a group of scientists are seen working in a high-tech lab, surrounded by screens displaying genetic code. In the background, the faces of American citizens are subtly highlighted, symbolizing that their data is being collected. The atmosphere of the image is dystopian, with a looming sense of unease and concern.

Chinese biotech corporations collect Americans’ genetic data, legislators warn.

US politicians on Capitol Hill are pressing for a vote to prohibit US economic connections with Chinese biotech businesses, citing concerns that Beijing may utilize Americans’ sensitive health data for malicious reasons.

In the last year, senators have raised national security worries about Chinese technology, Chinese hackers, Chinese drones, Chinese-owned TikTok, Chinese vehicle manufacturers, and even hidden Chinese police stations operating in the United States.

Now, US senators are warning about biotech corporations owned or controlled by nation-state rivals, including China, which is renowned for gathering and analyzing large quantities of sensitive genetic data on American citizens.

The House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) held a hearing on the issue on Thursday, just one day after the US Senate Homeland Security Committee approved a bill prohibiting all federal funds from going to any Chinese biotech company identified as a threat to national security.

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The measure, named “The Prohibiting Foreign Access to American Genetic Information Act of 2024,” would prohibit any ‘at risk’ biotech corporation and its subsidiaries from obtaining US taxpayer cash via government contracts, grants or loans.

China plans a universal DNA database.

“My bill to prevent Americans’ DNA from being stolen by Chinese-military-directed biotech companies using US taxpayer dollars is one step closer to becoming law,” stated Senator measure Hagerty (R-TN), who co-introduced it.

“Do we want DNA of America’s kids in the hands of @BGI_Genomics, @WuXi_AppTec & other China-backed biotech firms?” Hagerty posted on X.

As breakthroughs and investments in biotechnology speed, “the US needs to be there first so we can set the rules of the road,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Select Committee on CCP.

“The CCP is executing a plan to build a DNA database on every man, woman, and child on the planet,” Gallagher said in his opening statements at the hearing on Thursday.

“The database includes Americans, whose DNA they’re collecting with large cyber hacks, corporate acquisitions, and other methods,” he went on to say.

The law states that biological data, such as DNA sequences, may be used for military reasons, to infringe privacy, to design viruses to target people or food supplies, and to violate human rights.

“We’ve already seen how China is going to use advanced biotechnology,” Gallagher stated, citing hegemonic activities like as

  • Forced DNA collection.
  • Genetic monitoring
  • Genetic enhancement of troops
  • Genetically selective weapons

Chinese biotech businesses of concern.

According to the US intelligence community, the CCP has made concerted efforts to obtain human genetic data from biotech companies such as the BGI Group (formerly known as the Beijing Genomics Institute), WuXi AppTec, MGI Tech, and Complete Genomics, a life sciences company that has developed a DNA sequencing platform.

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In reality, the law would contain a fast-track ban on all four of the firms.

The BGI Group and its subsidiaries were recently added to the US Commerce Department’s list of foreign corporations considered a national security concern, but the Committee claims that unfriendly governments, like as the CCP, “often seek ways to get around these restrictions.”

“We have seen this play before with Huawei and America’s telecoms sector,” Hagerty added.

The Committee highlights a concerning 2021 Reuters article revealing that a prenatal test created by the BGI firm in collaboration with the Chinese military was being offered to millions of women in over 50 nations.

According to the report, leftover blood samples, as well as other genetic and personal data gathered from the kits, were shipped back to China and employed in population trait research.

According to Reuters, BGI Group collaborated with the Chinese government to “improve ‘population quality’ and conduct genetic research to combat hearing loss and altitude sickness in soldiers.”

“It’s important that when Americans undergo typical medical care, such as getting their blood drawn or other tests, they are confident that their DNA will not end up in the wrong hands,” said bill co-sponsor Senator Gary Peters (D-MI).

“The CCP is executing a plan to build a DNA database on every man, woman, and child on the planet.”

Mike Gallagher, chairman of the House Select Committee on the CCP, is a Wisconsin representative.

During the session, the relationship between biotech firms and the COVID-19 pandemic was also discussed.

Dr. Jason Kelly, CEO of American-based and MIT alumni-founded Ginkgo Bioworks, cited a 2023 Washington Post story that “BGI was building out in more than 20 countries, these types of genomic sequencing centers, under the banner of COVID-testing.”

“Our inability to know the source of the [COVID-19] to me, is the largest intelligence failure since 9/11,” he went on to say.

Critics say China is unjustly targeted.

Although the law seems to be a slam dunk in both houses, there have been some worries about its impact on the biotech supply chain for US firms, as well as market volatility, with stocks for some of the major Chinese biotechs falling sharply this week.

The law restricts government involvement with the biotech corporations named above, as well as their affiliates and any companies that employ their equipment or services, while pre-existing contracts are excluded.

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WuXi AppTec is a pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical, and medical device firm that offers research and development and manufacturing services to the global pharmaceutical and healthcare industries.

According to Reuters, the company’s US operations account for more than half of its revenues and include locations in Georgia, Pennsylvania, California, and a soon-to-open campus in Delaware.

Meanwhile, WuXi and BGI have both denied posing any risks to the US, with BGI asserting in a statement Thursday that the bill includes “misleading allegations and inaccurate assertions..against our company without due process.”

Chinese embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu termed the charges of genetic data theft “groundless” and “another example of the US making up excuses and using all means to suppress Chinese companies,” according to the South Morning Chinese Post.

“The US side should respect the basic facts, abandon ideological bias, stop abusing various excuses to suppress Chinese companies unreasonably, and provide fair, just, and non-discriminatory treatment to Chinese companies in their operations,” he added.

Republican Senator Rand Paul (K-Y), the bill’s single “no” vote, said his colleagues were “taking advantage of anger towards China to do sort of parochial protectionist things for their particular state.”

The Senator has also expressed his thoughts on TikTok, voting last spring to defeat a Senate measure to expedite the ban, citing free expression concerns and unfair targeting of the Chinese-owned social media applications’ parent company, ByeDance.

Also on Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee overwhelmingly adopted legislation requiring Chinese-owned ByteDance six months to divest from TikTok or face a ban on running social media applications in the United States.


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