Bipartisan legislation was introduced in both houses of Congress Thursday that would effectively ban China’s largest genomics company from doing business in the U.S., after years of warnings from intelligence officials that Beijing is gathering genetic information about Americans and others in ways that could harm national security.
The bills, backed by leaders of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party and the Senate Homeland Security Committee, target BGI, formerly known as Beijing Genomics Institute, which in 2021 was blacklisted by the Pentagon as a Chinese military company. Five company affiliates also have been sanctioned by the Commerce Department, which accused at least two of them of improperly using genetic information against ethnic minorities in China.
In an exclusive interview with NBC News, Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., said their legislation would ban BGI — or any company using its technology — from federal contracts, a move the company said in a statement would “drive BGI from the U.S. market.”
BGI “remains a leading supplier of genetic sequencing equipment within the American market,” Gallagher said. “We think that’s a bad idea. And that’s what we’re trying to stop.”
Similar legislation was introduced in the Senate by Gary Peters, D-Mich., who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, and Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn. With bipartisan, bicameral support, the backers say the bills have a good chance of becoming law.
“This bill will protect Americans’ personal health and genetic information from foreign adversaries who have the ability and motivation to use it to undermine our national security,” Peters told NBC News.
In a statement, BGI said it “fully supports protecting personal data, but the legislation which will effectively drive BGI from the U.S. market will not accomplish this goal, and rather will restrict competition, raise health care costs, and