Senators Sound Alarm Over US Funding To Chinese Biotech Firm Over National Security Threats

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by Tyler Durden
Thursday, Jul 27, 2023 - 04:20 PM

Authored by Eva Fu via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) speaks with reporters during a press conference in the U.S. Capitol in Washington on July 11, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

A group of Republican senators are probing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) over its partnership with Chinese biotech firm BGI, warning that the collaboration could give China a competitive edge while putting U.S. security in danger.

The Chinese genomics giant, which has been blacklisted by both the Defense and Commerce Departments, has been working with the USDA since as early as 2018 on the Earth BioGenome Project, which aims to sequence the genomes of over 1.5 million species over a 10-year span to catalog the earth’s biodiversity.

Following the partnership’s announcement, the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service awarded $1 million to BGI. The Chinese firm and the state-funded China National GeneBank it runs occupy leadership roles in four of the project’s nine subcommittees, including chairmanship of the subcommittee of IT and Informatics.

The lawmakers said they are “gravely concerned” about BGI’s participation in this “massive effort to sequence all of life,” a partnership they said was uncovered while tracking U.S. government funding during a probe into COVID-19 origins.

As much as genomic modification is important to agriculture, safeguards are necessary to protect the security of U.S. genomic research data, the lawmakers wrote on July 25 in a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Our government must take extreme caution to prevent sponsoring research that gives any sensitive materials and intellectual property to the Chinese Communist Party,” Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), who leads the letter, told The Epoch Times.

“The CCP views biology as a domain of warfare which includes the study of all plant and animal living organisms,” he said, using the acronym for the Chinese Communist Party. “The USDA and all government agencies involved in cutting edge biological research must have better oversight when corresponding with CCP-sponsored organizations that are not immediately obvious.”

In the letter, co-signed by Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine), the lawmakers highlighted the growing concern over China’s aggressive national strategy of military-civil fusion that mobilizes civilian sectors to enhance its military power.

Beijing, they said, has been “weaponizing biotech in preparation for strategic advantage in a new domain of biological warfare.”

Chinese scientists have engaged in controversial experiments such as creating genetically-altered babies and inserting genes from a micro-animal known as water bears into a human stem cell. Both of these cases, the lawmakers said, have exposed a lack of regard for scientific ethical boundaries in China.

Last year, the Department of Defense placed the firm on a sanction list for supporting the “modernization goals of the People’s Liberation Army,” and the Department of Commerce imposed trade restrictions on it in March. Two of its affiliates are also put on the Commerce Department’s blacklist in 2022 for their role in “conducting genetic analyses used to further the repression of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.”

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