UPDATED 6:45 AM PT – Monday, July 25, 2022
Lawmakers are warning that submitting samples of DNA to private companies may hand over valuable information to America’s adversaries. Sites like 23andMe could pose immense national security risks.
At a recent Aspen Security Summit, Army veteran and Democrat Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) warned America’s enemies, including Russia and China, are developing biochemical weapons that could target specific people. Crow added, researchers are using DNA data provided to private companies to tailor the weapons to that genetic information. However, he lamented adversaries can get this information easily and without much of a fight.
“You can’t have a discussion about this without talking about privacy and the protection of commercial data because expectations of privacy have degraded the last 20 years,” Crow explained. “Young folks actually have very little expectation of privacy, that’s what the poll and the data shows. And people will very rapidly spit into a cup and send it in to 23andMe and get really interesting data about their background and guess what? Their DNA is now owned by a private company that can be sold off with very little intellectual property protections or privacy protections.”
Additionally, Republican Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said the threat of a biochemical attack won’t just hit humans specifically, but also the food supply. She stressed, America’s adversaries could weaponize diseases that have already plagued the agriculture sector to kill off animals and plants used for food.
“So not necessarily those specific human targets with a particular type of weaponized biological weapon, but also if we look at food security and what can our adversaries do with biological weapons that are directed at our animal agriculture, at our agricultural sector,” Ernst explained.
Meanwhile, Army Gen. Richard Clarke claimed bad actors have been quick to use other chemical weapons with relative ease. He cited alleged uses of chlorine and mustard gas being used in Iraq and Syria by ISIS. Gen. Clarke warned even these weapons do not need complex training in order to use them.
In the meantime, the congressmen urged their colleagues to adopt legislation, which could bolster protections for Americans’ personal information. This included healthcare, DNA and consumer patterns. Additionally, they stressed the need to add food security in the realm of national security in order to put more attention on America’s food supply chain.