House member warns DNA testing services could be coopted by our enemies to develop bioweapons

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USA- A good number of Americans have used DNA testing services such as 23 & Me and Ancestry.com to get their ancestral history.

It is a simple process, with individuals usually submitting a saliva sample to the companies. From there, they are able to perform a DNA trace and determine someone’s lineage. Sounds cool, right? Maybe not so much.

The Daily Mail writes that a Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee is warning that bio-weapons are currently being manufactured that utilize someone’s DNA in order to kill them.

Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO) told the Aspen Security Forum last week that Americans should use caution when sharing their DNA with private companies which might sell their information to bad actors who could take advantage of such information to weaponize someone’s DNA against them.

“You can actually take someone’s DNA, take, you know, their medical profile and you can target a biological weapon that will kill that person or take them off the battlefield or make them inoperable,” Crow warned.

The congressman highlighted the development of new biological weapons while noting the popularity of DNA testing services, whereby users willingly share their genetic mapping with private businesses in order to gain knowledge of their genealogy and health profile.

While such information can be useful to an individual, it can also be used by bad actors, such as perhaps China.

“You can’t have a discussion about this without talking about privacy and the protection of commercial data because expectations of privacy have degraded over the last 20 years,” Crow said.

“Young folks actually have very little expectation of privacy, that’s what the polling and the data show,” he continued.

The former Army Ranger, who served three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan continued to express his concern, noting that people are willing “to spit into a cup and send it to 23andMe and get really interesting data about their background.”

He then warned about where that spit shows up.

“And guess what? Their DNA is now owned by a private company. It can be sold off with very little intellectual property protection or privacy protection and we don’t have legal and regulatory regimes to deal with that.

“We have to have an open and public discussion about…what the protection of healthcare information, DNA information, and your data look like because that data is actually going to be procured and collected by our adversaries for the development of these systems.”

The Mail said 23andMe has repeatedly denied selling its customer’s private data, however the DNA company has in fact provided information to law enforcement authorities upon request.

Meanwhile, a Republican senator also warned about adversaries of the U.S. utilizing DNA bio-weapons for attacks involving food supplies on a widespread basis.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and military veteran warned certain biological weapons could be amassed that target specific animals which citizens depend on, which could possibly lead to food scarcity and/or insecurity in order to drive concern among the population.

“Food insecurity drives a lot of other insecurities around the globe,” the senator said. “There’s a number of ways we can look at biological weapons and the need to make sure not only are we securing human beings, but then also the food that will sustain us.”

Beside the Daily Mail, the Washington Examiner has also been reporting that it would be rather easy for private databases such as 23andMe to be used for the purposes of developing bioweapons as Crow identified.

It could be as easy, the Examiner said as taking DNA belonging to a target, or even a close relative of a target, and using it for the purposes of developing a bioweapon against that specific person.

Such weapons could be used for matters such as “highly-targeted assassination programs,” they said, which would also make it much more difficult to track down killers.

Moreover, the technology could be used against US agriculture by designing weapons targeting only a specific farm animal or crop. Nuclear weapons? Who needs them under such a scenario. It is truly chilling.

Any attack on food sources could literally drive a country into famine overnight and would make the US extremely vulnerable to countries such as Russia and China, the Examiner warned.

In fact, the use of such weapons isn’t new to Russia, warned Army General Richard Clark, commander of the US Special Operations Command, with that country actually achieving some success with a less sophisticated version of the same weapon.

In 2018, Russia used a nerve agent to poison former double agent Sergei Skripal in England, Clark noted.

“Russia is willing to use those against political opponents. They’re willing to use them on their own soil, but than go in on the soil of a NATO ally in the UK and use those…and as we go into the future, we have to be prepared for that eventuality.

“And I don’t think we talk about it as much as we should and look for methods to continue to combat.”

The incident in England involved Skripal and his daughter Yulia being poisoned with Novichok, a nerve agent, in the town of Salisbury, England, both of whom survived but nearly died from their injuries. Then-British Prime Minister Theresa May blamed Russia for that attempt several days later.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) last year warned about Russian and Chinese labs processing such DNA tests through our own government programs—Medicare and Medicaid.

“It’s ridiculous that our current policies enable the Chinese Communist Party to access Americans genomic data,” Rubio said in a statement at the time.

“There is absolutely no reason that Beijing, which routinely seeks to undermine US national security, should be handed the genomic data of American citizens.”

Gizmodo reports that in 2018, 23andMe, Ancestry, Habit, Helix, and MyHeritage signed on to a policy which supports “advancing responsible data practices in support of emerging technologies,” a policy compiled in part by The Future of Privacy Forum, a nonprofit.

The guidelines, known as “Privacy Best Practices for Consumer Genetic Testing Services” was released last week and deals with situations where law enforcement may seek access to users’ “personally identifiable and anonymous genetic information” without a warrant, as well as other third-parties.

Under the new policies, which are voluntary, separate consent would have to be given from users before companies would share “individual-level information” with other businesses, and offer more transparency about the number of requests for data from, or fulfilled for law enforcement.

Despite companies agreeing to abide by the standards, there is no statutory requirement to do so.

House member warns DNA testing services could be coopted by our enemies to develop bioweapons

Adversaries collecting DNA for the purposes of developing bioweapons is nothing new. Gordon Chang, a columnist, author and lawyer warned about this back in 2020, which we reported on at the time. For that analysis, we invite you to:

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BEJING, CHINA –  According to Gordon Chang, author of The Coming Collapse of China, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has been collecting the DNA of people for years, and he says the reasons for doing so should be of concern to the American people.

China has been able to obtain over 80 million health profiles and now has the largest DNA database in the world, and it is growing, Chang warned in an interview with Fox News. He alleges that China intends on using this information to create bioweapons designed to target specific ethnic groups.

“The coronavirus is not the last pathogen that will be generated from Chinese soil. And so, we’ve got to be concerned that the next disease is more transmissible and more deadly than the novel coronavirus,” Chang said.

He claims that China collects the DNA of its own citizens under the auspices of law enforcement purposes, using it to track down dissidents and form a tightly controlled surveillance program.

More disturbingly, Chang says, China has also found a way to obtain the DNA of foreign citizens, including Americans:

“Buying American companies which have DNA profiles, subsidizing DNA analysis for ancestry companies, and hacking.”

While it is interesting for people to find out what their ancestry is through companies such as Ancestry.com, or 23 and Me, people are unwittingly providing their DNA profile in order for bad actors such as China to use it for nefarious purposes.

Hacking? In 2015, the PRC hacked Anthem-Blue Cross, the second-largest insurance company in the United States.

The PRC is now using the coronavirus to expand its DNA database by requiring internationally accepted QR codes for travel in and out of China and using so-called vaccine diplomacy. Chang explained how China could use the up-coming COVID-19 vaccines to obtain information on groups of people:

“What they’re doing is they are saying: ‘We’ll get this vaccine to you, but we need to complete our trials so we’re going to use your population as the test. If you don’t participate in these trials, you’re not getting the Chinese vaccines.’

“Beijing is trying to extend its influence by making its vaccine available.”

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He noted that at the same time, the regime is “collecting very sensitive information about people outside China.”

Currently, China has five coronavirus vaccine candidates that have reached so-called Phase 3 clinical trials and have been rolled out to 16 countries, among them Brazil, Turkey, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates.

The information gleaned by China also involves its desire to dominate the biotechnology industry, which Chang says, “is very important to them.”

Chang said:

“They included it in their ‘Made in China 2025’ initiative (which) is a decade long program to dominate certain industries.”

However, Chang says that is the least of China’s concerns. He claims that “China is probably trying to develop diseases that target not just everybody but target only certain ethnic or racial groups.”

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By doing so, China would have the ability to create bioweapons which could theoretically target only certain groups of people. He also said that the fact China’s practice of collecting the DNA of foreigners while prohibiting access to Chinese DNA to foreign researchers seems to support that theory:

“We’ve got to be extremely concerned because that is not consistent with a country that wants to cooperate with the rest of the world. This is consistent with a country developing biological weapons.

“People have said biological weapons don’t work. Well, we do know they work because we had the coronavirus, which may or may not have been a biological weapon. But we do know that it crippled the United States and that’s what Beijing is really looking for.”

Chang is now urging the United States government to act quickly to prevent the communist Chinese from obtaining any more American DNA.

“We should not allow any Chinese or Chinese-affiliated organization to test the DNA of Americans. And we’ve got to say to China, ‘either you agree to an inspection regime or we’re pulling out of the biological weapons convention.’”

Moreover, The New York Times reported that in China, even children are being pressed to provide blood samples in order to build their genetic database.

The paper said that police in China are collecting blood samples from men and boys across the country in order to develop genetic mapping of the roughly 700 million males in that nation, which would give authorities a powerful tool in order to supplement what is referred to as their emerging “high-tech surveillance state.”

Starting in 2017, police have collected enough samples to establish a vast DNA database, according to a study published Wednesday by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a research organization whose documents were reviewed by The New York Times. The paper reported that by using this database, Chinese authorities are able to track down a male’s relatives using a person’s blood, saliva, or other genetic material.

What is even more disturbing is that American companies are participating, perhaps unwittingly, in this program. For example, The New York Times notes that the company Thermo Fisher sold test kits to the Chinese police which were tailored precisely to their specifications. While some American lawmakers have apparently criticized the sale, the company has defended the practice.

The New York Times noted that the program is a major escalation of China’s efforts to use genetics as a means to control its people, focused on tracking ethnic minorities and other more targeted groups.

This is in addition to other expanded surveillance measures the police are deploying across China, including advanced cameras, facial recognition systems, and artificial intelligence.

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Chinese police claim the information is needed to catch criminals, and even make the claim that donor’s “consent” to handing over DNA.

However, human rights groups outside of China, and even some Chinese officials have warned that such a national database could invade privacy and encourage officials to punish relatives of dissidents and activists. Rights groups further argue that the collection is being done without consent since people living in such a regime have virtually no right to refuse.

Maya Wang, a China researcher for Human Rights Watch, said:

“The ability of authorities to discover who is most intimately related to whom, given the context of the punishment of entire families as a result of one person’s activism, is going to have a chilling effect on society as a whole.”

Schools are also involved. For example, in one southern coastal town in China, young boys were subjected to the giving of blood by a police officer with a needle, while 230 miles north, officers went from table to table taking blood only from boys.

One man, Jiang Haolin, was forced to give a blood sample. The 31-year-old said he had no other choice. He explained:

“If blood wasn’t collected, we would be listed as a ‘black household,’”

He noted that the designation would deprive him and his family of benefits such as the right to travel or even to go to a hospital.

The Chinese government claims they are collecting DNA samples from only men and boys because, according to statistics,  they “commit more crimes.”

The 80 million DNA samples were initially subject to a more focused program, where criminal suspects and groups such as migrant workers in certain neighborhoods were gathered. They also targeted ethnic minority groups such as Uighurs in order to clamp down on them.

The current effort seems to broaden those efforts, Emile Dirks, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto, said:

“We are seeing the expansion of those models to the rest of China in an aggressive way that I don’t think we’ve seen before.”

Getting back to Thermo Fisher, they sold testing kits to police agencies in at least nine counties and cities for establishing a “male ancestry inspection system,” also known as a male DNA database. The information was gleaned from corporate bidding documents found by Dirks and was verified by The New York Times.

Thermo Fisher actively sought out the business. Before the DNA collection program started, a company researcher, Dr. Zhong Chang, said at a conference in Beijing that Thermo Fisher could help.

One testing kit was designed to look for specific genetic markers that were sought by the Ministry of Public Security, which is evidently a common industry practice. Yet another was designed to gather genetic information from members of China’s ethnic groups, which include the Uighurs and Tibetans.

Thermo Fisher claims that its DNA kits “are the global standard for forensic DNA testing.” The company said in a statement that it recognizes “the importance of considering how our products and services are used—or may be used—by our customers.”

The company continued:

We are proud to be a part of the many positive ways in which DNA identification has been applied, from tracking down criminals to stopping human trafficking and freeing the unjustly accused.” 

China claims that Thermo Fisher’s equipment can help Chinese physicians screen for deadly diseases. However, some worry that the equipment can be used for social control.

In light of that, last year Thermo Fisher agreed to stop selling its equipment to authorities in Xinjiang province, in northwestern China where police were collecting DNA from mostly Muslim Uighur’s for social control purposes.

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