The NY Times reported recently that Chinese government bodies are creating a DNA data source of the country’s Uighur minority, a mostly Muslim cultural group blamed for a series of terrorist attacks in northwestern China. Since 2016, there were regular reports of regulators taking blood samples in the Xinjiang region, where ethnic tensions have been rising. The problem has developed into female crackdown in China, with almost one million Uighurs and other minorities apparently kept in “re-education” camps bent on making Muslims more subservient to the Communist Party. There, Uighurs are having to hand over genetic examples, which activists worry could later be used by authorities to run after down any Uighurs who withstand the indoctrination.
Chinese specialists used machines built by Thermo Fisher Scientific-along with American research-to build the data source. San Diego-based Illumina, a global giant in genomic sequencing, also has a well-documented romantic relationship with China. Year that China is an important market for the company-the second largest Its CEO said last, by country. Last April, Illumina announced it might be working with the Chinese personal-genomics company WeGene to establish a micro-array laboratory in Asia. WeGene plans to use Illumina’s technology to broaden the assortment of genomic data to all or any of the 56 ethnic groups in China.
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The recent news of China’s security campaign illustrates how genetic technology can be used inappropriately, adding fodder to the long-held concern that fast-moving DNA technology carries serious risk. If designer babies weren’t a big enough to be concerned for existentialists and futurists, now add to it the prospect of human being tracking and discrimination based on DNA information. But a technology-or throughout the world once, who is responsible for its use? For example, he said, does a business that sells hunting rifles necessarily know in advance that its customer will use that weapon for Turkey hunting instead of terrorizing humans?
Bohrer said. “So how do they exercise that, how easy is it to allow them to police the uses that their tools are placed?” Bohrer said. Thermo Fisher said it would no more sell its genetic sequencers equipment in China’s Xinjiang region where the area of the campaign to monitor Uighurs is mainly occurring.
The company said it was “consistent with Thermo Fisher’s values, ethics code and policies.” It added, “We recognize the need for considering how our products and services are used-or may be used-by our customers,” the business said in a statement. A spokeswoman for Illumina said the business did not have a comment. The question of corporate and business self-regulation in age-big data is not unique to the biotech industry.
Social media large Facebook is a regular target of critics for how it has misused personal data. Recently, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo purchased a probe of Facebook following the Wall Street Journal reported that the business was collecting delicate personal health information from smartphone apps. Regardless of the industry, the question remains: What duties do companies bear after their products are released into the world? Academics often find the intersection of politics and technological research distracting with their mission. They unabashedly would rather pursue technology, letting the potato chips fall where they might.
Ali Torkamani, director of Genome Informatics at the Scripps Research Translational Institute, said genetic science is no more susceptible to misuse than every other technology. Look no further than new medicines, he said, to start to see the good in new DNA technology. Dr. Eric Topol, director of Scripps Research Translational Institute, believes some extent of self-regulation by the technological community is necessary. Topol, a cardiologist and genomics expert. Topol said the utilization of DNA technology to focus on a particular group of individuals is another “dark example” of how medical innovations can be abused.
He noted that it’s not unlike the furor that erupted late this past year after it became known that a Chinese scientist experienced genetically engineered human embryos, leading to the first-ever births of genetically modified infants. Nobody should be surprised by such revelations as long as there are no strong protections in place to protect people’s people’s privacy, says Emory Roane of the San Diego-based Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. While Europe plus some U.S. California have strong rules relatively, they are not widespread.
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