This essay is adapted from Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life, by Brandon J. Weichert, a 19FortyFive Contributing Editor (Encounter, 272 pages, $30.99.). The views expressed in this adaptation are the author’s own.
Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) is a Chinese company with the world’s largest genomic database. It turns out that they’ve been very keen on getting DNA from pregnant women, not only in China but from around the world. BGI sells one of the world’s most popular prenatal tests.
The product is sold in fifty-two different countries—thankfully excluding the United States.
The test, known as the “Non-Invasive Fetal TrisomY” (NIFTY), according to Reuters, is used by expectant mothers in their tenth week of pregnancy to “detect abnormalities such as Down syndrome in the fetus.” The NIFTY tests also “capture genetic information about the mother, as well as personal details such as her country, height, and weight, but not her name.” A staggering eight million women globally have taken the BGI NIFTY test.
Years after the tests were introduced globally, it was discovered that, contrary to what BGI promised its clients, genetic data was not discarded after …