by WorldTribune Staff, July 12, 2021
A stunning new Reuters report suggests that China is harvesting data from millions of pregnant women from around the world via the makers of a popular prenatal test to help develop genetically enhanced super-soldiers.
“A Chinese gene company selling prenatal tests around the world developed them in collaboration with the country’s military and is using them to collect genetic data from millions of women for sweeping research on the traits of populations, a Reuters review of scientific papers and company statements found,” the July 7 report reads.
China-based BGI Group, the largest biotech company in the world, manufactures the prenatal test. Reuters reports that:
U.S. government advisors warned in March that a vast bank of genomic data that the company, BGI Group, is amassing and analyzing with artificial intelligence could give China a path to economic and military advantage. As science pinpoints new links between genes and human traits, access to the biggest, most diverse set of human genomes is a strategic edge. The technology could propel China to dominate global pharmaceuticals, and also potentially lead to genetically enhanced soldiers, or engineered pathogens to target the U.S. population or food supply, the advisors said.
The wire service states BGI has close working ties to the Chinese communist military:
Reuters has found that BGI’s prenatal test, one of the most popular in the world, is a source of genetic data for the company, which has worked with the Chinese military to improve “population quality” and on genetic research to combat hearing loss and altitude sickness in soldiers.
The collaboration is far more advanced than has been reported as of yet, Reuters says:
The scale of BGI’s accumulation of prenatal data, and its collaboration with the military in prenatal and neonatal research, have not been previously reported. The company has published at least a dozen joint studies on the tests with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) since 2010, trialling and improving the tests or analyzing the data they provided, the Reuters review found.
BGI made headlines in January due to a report by CBS News’s “60 Minutes” program that stated the company in 2020 offered to provide coronavirus testing in America that would have allowed it to collect DNA data from U.S. citizens.
Supervisory Special Agent Edward You, “a former biochemist turned FBI investigator,” told CBS News:
They [China] are building out a huge domestic database. And if they are now able to supplement that with data from all around the world, it’s all about who gets the largest, most diverse data set. And so, the ticking time bomb is that once they’re able to achieve true artificial intelligence, then they’re off to the races in what they can do with that data.
It sounds all the more sinister when a communist superpower is doing it, but China’s aggressive actions are actually part of a new normal.
Arwa Mahdawi, writing for the UK newspaper The Guardian, points out that the Chinese DNA accumulation efforts are a way for them to get an advantage in what has become a highly sensitive cutting-edge game for governments and major corporations around the world:
DNA is big business now and there is really no knowing who has your most intimate information, who they’ve sold it on to, and what those companies or governments are doing with it. Last year, for example, the private equity company Blackstone acquired Ancestry.com, which has 18 million people in “the world’s largest consumer DNA network”. Blackstone has said it has no plans to monetize that DNA but many bioethicists and privacy activists are highly skeptical of those claims. They didn’t shell out close to $5bn just for the hell of it did they? Meanwhile, the British government is on a massive data grab, and looks a lot like it is trying monetize the medical histories of everyone in England. The government has been striking secretive deals with controversial big data companies like Palantir, which are funded by the CIA.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of all this is that, far from being an outlier, China is simply ahead of Western forces who have no business being involved in such machinations themselves.
“Think about the dawn of – the Internet of Things and the 5G networks and… smart homes and smart cities. There are going to be sensors everywhere,” FBI investigator You told CBS in January.
“It’s gonna be tracking your movement, your behavior, your habits. And ultimately, it’s gonna have a biological application, meaning that based on the data that gets collected, they’ll be able to analyze that and look at improving your health. That data becomes incredibly relevant and very, very valuable.”
“You’re describing data almost as… as a commodity,” CBS correspondent Jon Wertheim exclaimed.
“Data is absolutely gonna be the new oil,” You succinctly replied.
And the privacy and individual human rights implications will be boundless.