POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Romney pushing bill to stop your genetic data from going to China

Mar 8, 2024, 9:30 AM

Mitt Romney shown...

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 05: Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) departs from an all-senators closed briefing where they heard from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky via video conference at the U.S. Capitol on December 05, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

(Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Utah Sen. Mitt Romney wants to prevent your genetic data from going to “foreign adversaries” like China.

Romney’s bipartisan bill, Prohibiting Foreign Access to American Genetic Information Act of 2024, bans federal contracts with four Chinese biotechnology companies that have already gotten flak from the US government for years.

Those are the BGI Group, MGI, Complete Genomics, WuXi AppTec, as well as their subsidiaries, according to a news release sent by Romney’s office.

“Chinese-based biotechnology companies are collecting genetic and sensitive health data from millions of people around the world through medical diagnostics tests to give China the upper hand,” said Romney in the release.

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Romney is referring to the emerging field of biotechnology, which centers on applications of genetic information in areas ranging from crop growing to disease research. Some prominent company names in the US industry include 23andMe, Ancestry and Biofire.

However, Romney accuses Chinese companies of acting on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party. 

“We cannot allow the CCP to get their hands on Americans’ private health information,” Romney added. “Our bipartisan legislation bans federal contracts and funding mechanisms to companies with ties to the CCP, helping make sure no American taxpayer dollars could be used to subsidize biotech companies that threaten our national security.”

‘Partner and friend’? Expert says US should be careful trusting China

Recent evidence appears to support Romney’s claim that Chinese companies have helped the Chinese government build a genetic database.

In October, The Washington Post reported that China partnered with other countries from Canada to Serbia through “Fire-Eye” COVID testing labs during the pandemic. These labs also acted as hubs to collect human genetic data, which the US accused of sending the information to China’s government.

Utah senators urge Justice Department probe of Chinese Service Centers

The bill has garnered support from both Democrats and Republicans, and a sister bill is now moving through the House of Representatives.

“By allowing these companies to amass and analyze large amounts of foreign genomic data, we risk our most sensitive information being used by our foreign adversaries against us,” said House bill sponsor Raja Krishnamoorthi.

The bill Romney is cosponsoring advanced through a Senate committee Wednesday and now awaits a vote on the Senate floor.

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Romney pushing bill to stop your genetic data from going to China