By Adrianna Zhang
VOA News
July 16, 2021

WASHINGTON - A Chinese gene company is collecting genetic data through prenatal tests from women in more than 50 countries for research on the traits of populations, raising concern that such a large DNA database could give China a technological advantage and the strategic edge to dominate global pharmaceuticals, according to a recent news report.

Analysts expressed unease with the developments exclusively reported by Reuters at BGI Group, the Chinese gene company, which is collecting genetic data via its NiPT prenatal test with the brand name NIFTY (Non-Invasive Fetal TrisomY).

The tests, sold in more than 50 countries, can detect abnormalities such as Down syndrome in the fetus by capturing DNA from the placenta in the bloodstream about 10 weeks into a pregnancy.

The tests are sold in 52 countries, including Germany, Spain and Denmark, as well as in Britain, Canada, Australia, Thailand, India and Pakistan, according to Reuters. They are not sold in the United States, where “government advisers warned in March that the genomic data BGI is amassing and analyzing with artificial intelligence could give China a path to economic and military advantage,” Reuters reported. 

Collecting the biggest and most diverse set of human genomes 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 U.S. advisers said, according to Reuters.

Reggie Littlejohn, founder and president of the rights group Women's Rights Without Frontiers, said that due to China’s strategy of fusing military and civilian interests, “any Chinese company can be forced by the government to supply its information to the military.”

China sells the prenatal tests “a good product at a lower cost because they're able to do that,” Littlejohn said. “But what people don't realize is that when they get these lower cost genetic tests,” the collected information goes to the Chinese military,” she told VOA via a video interview using Microsoft Teams…….

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