Congress weighs ban on government contracts for ‘adversarial biotech companies’ like China’s BGI
The Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act could include a House-authored provision that prohibits the United States government and its contractors from buying equipment from ‘adversarial biotech companies’ that work to ‘exploit’ Americans’ genetic information for ‘malign purposes,’ Fox News Digital has learned.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives are currently conferencing and negotiating on final NDAA text that can be passed by both chambers.
The provision, which was passed in the original House bill, was introduced by House China Select Committee Chairman Mike Gallagher, R-Wis. The provision prohibits the purchase of biotechnology equipment or services from all United States adversaries, including North Korea, Russia, Iran and China.
But in his amendment, Gallagher specifically mentions Shenzhen-based company Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) and seeks to block the company from contracting with the United States government. BGI has close ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
‘Beijing Genomics Institute collects genetic data on people all over the world, to include that of pregnant women, and uses it for research with the Chinese military,’ Gallagher told Fox News Digital. ‘The CCP will undoubtedly use the genetic data collected by BGI to further its malign aggression, potentially even to develop a bioweapon used to target the American people.’
Gallagher said that ‘the good news is that Congress can do something about it.’
Gallagher and Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., are working together ‘to prohibit the U.S. government and those that contract with the U.S. government from acquiring genetic sequencing equipment from BGI and its subsidiaries in this year’s National Defense Authorization Amendment.’
Hagerty told Fox News Digital that he is ‘pleased’ to work with Gallagher to ensure the NDAA includes ‘this important provision to prevent CCP-aligned Chinese biotech companies from collecting Americans’ DNA.’
‘It’s deeply alarming that the Chinese Communist Party, through China’s ‘national champion’ biotech companies like BGI, is harvesting genetic data from millions of people around the world for storage and analysis back in China, often in collaboration with the Chinese military,’ Hagerty told Fox News Digital.
Hagerty, at this point, has filed a motion to instruct conferees to include the BGI text in the final conference report.
‘I urge my Senate colleagues to support this effort to prohibit the U.S. government and its contractors from buying equipment from adversarial biotech companies whose intent is to exploit Americans’ genetic and medical information for malign purposes,’ Hagerty said.
And Gallagher called for lawmakers ‘on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers of Congress to protect Americans’ sensitive health information and include this critical provision in the final bill.’
The push comes as the Intelligence Community, dating back to 2021, has been sounding the alarm on China’s collection of health care data and DNA of Americans. Intelligence officials have warned that the efforts pose ‘serious risks’ to the privacy of Americans and to U.S. economic and national security.
The National Counterintelligence and Security Center within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has warned that China is prioritizing the collection of health care data, including genomic data – which it says the country views as a ‘strategic commodity’ to be collected and used for its economic and national security priorities.
NCSC defined genomic data as ‘a broad term referring to your entire genetic sequence – all your DNA.’
The collection efforts come as part of China’s efforts to advance its artificial intelligence and precision medicine industries.
In 2016, the People’s Republic of China announced a $9 billion, 15-year project to collect, analyze and sequence genomic data to become a global leader in precision medicine – which ODNI describes as a process designed to provide tailored treatments based on the genetic makeup, environment and lifestyle of individual patients.
The intelligence community has also explicitly called out BGI, pointing to its efforts during the coronavirus pandemic. Intelligence officials have pointed to China’s efforts to market its COVID-19 testing kits around the world as well as laboratories to support its COVID-19 testing.
NCSC said that by August 2020, BGI said it had sold test kits to 180 countries and established labs in 18 countries during the pandemic.
Intelligence officials told Fox News that BGI made ‘aggressive efforts’ to market their COVID testing and lab services in states across America in the early days of the pandemic, despite concerns from the NCSC, the FBI and others in the intelligence community about the collection of health and genetic data from Americans.
The Pentagon has also listed BGI as a ‘Chinese military company’ operating in the United States.
BGI group and its subsidiaries are currently active throughout the United States. The company has a regional headquarters located in San Jose, California.
The company is required by law in the People’s Republic of China to share its data with the CCP.