Congress is feeling the heat from more than a dozen conservative groups that are calling for the passage of a National Defense Appropriations Act (NDAA) amendment to government contracts with a Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-linked biotech firm.
Sixteen conservative groups sent a letter to senators and House lawmakers, calling on them to pass the NDAA provision to ban contracts with “adversarial biotech companies,” specifically China’s Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI).
The amendments are led by Republicans Sen. Bill Hagerty of Tennessee and Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin.
CONGRESS WEIGHS BAN ON GOVERNMENT CONTRACTS FOR ‘ADVERSARIAL BIOTECH COMPANIES’ LIKE CHINA’S BGI
Gallagher, chairman of the House Select Committee on the CCP, told Fox News Digital that BGI “collects genetic data on people all over the world, to include that of pregnant women, and uses it for research with the Chinese military.”
“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 warned. “The good news is that Congress can do something about it.”
“Senator Hagerty and I are working 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 (NDAA),” he continued.
“I urge my colleagues 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,” Gallagher added.
The groups who signed onto the letter include Heritage Action, Americans for Limited Government, the Benjamin Rush Institute, and Frontiers of Freedom, among many others.
In their Nov. 17 letter, the groups say the provisions “would establish necessary safeguards to ensure that Americans’ genomic information is protected from potentially malign actors seeking to amass and leverage this sensitive personal information to achieve economic and national security goals.”
“U.S. leadership in the area of biotechnology and genomic data is critical,” the groups wrote. “The power of the genome is only just now beginning to be fully understood, with its applications for population level healthcare, targeted therapies for oncology and other conditions, agriculture, and biodefense growing each day.”
“Genomic data is important on an individual level, where it is among the most personal data a person has, and on a population level, where it can provide information on an entire race, or sub-race of individuals in a way that can explain why [populations] are susceptible to certain viruses and respond to certain environmental factors.”
“In the wrong hands, genomic data can also be used for genetic surveillance or societal control of minority populations,” the groups warned.
The conservative groups noted the “important economic and national security implications of leadership in biotechnology and genomic data” and that the CCP has “prioritized it for state support, including in its Made in China 2025 Plan.”
The groups also wrote that “there is ample evidence that the CCP and its biotechnology national champions like” BGI and WuXi Biologics “are engaged in a systematic campaign to collect as much personal genomic data as possible to achieve the Party’s objectives.”
“As recently reported by the Washington Post, China has been engaged in a genomic data collection effort for the past decade, ‘with a vast and growing government-owned repository that now includes genetic data drawn from millions of people around the world,'” the letter reads.
“These efforts received a major boost from the COVID-19 pandemic when Chinese companies and institutes provided free or low-cost COVID-19 testing kits, laboratories, or gene-sequencing machines around the world to facilitate their efforts,” it continues.
The groups also wrote that the U.S. government “has long recognized the threat posed by BGI and other Chinese biotech champions” and that the Trump administration’s Department of Commerce “placed BGI-controlled companies on the entity list” in 2020 because “they were ‘conducting genetic analyses used to further the repression of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the [Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region].’”
Additionally, the groups noted the Biden administration added “more BGI affiliates to the entity list for posing a significant risk of contribution to Chinese government surveillance and risk of diversion to China’s military programs.”
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The groups said the NDAA provisions from Gallagher and Hagerty “takes an important step to protect American biotechnology by prohibiting the U.S. government and those that contract with the U.S. government from acquiring genetic sequencing equipment” from BGI and its subsidiaries.
“This is critical to thwart China’s broad data collection efforts, which threaten U.S. economic and national security leadership,” they wrote.