The New York Times reported on 17 June 2020 that the Chinese government is collecting DNA from ordinary people as part of a programme of surveillance and control. This is in contradiction to existing regulations and safeguards concerning the collection of DNA samples from individuals. Collection of DNA without the subject’s full, informed consent can only be justified in limited circumstances, for example to solve a serious crime. A collection of samples from individuals where no such consent has been given, or where it has been obtained by extortion, has been ruled illegal by many international bodies, and the very existence of such a database is dangerous.
ESHG calls on responsible authorities worldwide to ensure that human DNA is collected only from individuals suspected of having committed serious crimes. Obtaining and documenting informed consent is an essential cornerstone of the proper research, clinical, and/or diagnostic use of DNA samples. We are of the opinion that existing databases that do not abide to established legal and ethical principles should be destroyed, and that companies should not provide technology to be used for these purposes, until there is clear evidence that human rights are no longer being violated.