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Ernst Demands Answers for “Fowl” Play

Biden’s USDA Funding Risky CCP-affiliated Avian Research

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) is demanding answers to why the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is funding a collaboration with a Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-linked researcher involving dangerous bird flu experiments.

She pointed out a researcher involved with these experiments is affiliated with China’s infamous Wuhan Institute of Virology, from where the COVID-19 pandemic is believed to have leaked. Like the dangerous experiments on coronaviruses conducted in unsafe labs in Wuhan, this collaboration will involve a form of gain?of?function research that could make the virus more infectious. 

With Iowa being the nation’s leading egg producer and experiencing devastating poultry losses this past year due to avian flu, avian flu research and prevention is a personal priority for Ernst. She believes those efforts, however, should not involve the forced mutation of a virus to become more deadly, especially in unsafe Chinese labs that do not adhere to the absolute highest safety standards.

In a letter to Secretary Tom Vilsack, Ernst wrote, “I am writing to obtain information about the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ongoing funding of a collaboration with a Chinese Communist Party-linked researcher involving dangerous bird flu experiments and recent support for other animal labs in adversarial nations. I was troubled to learn from the non-profit group White Coat Waste Project that USDA is supporting experiments involving “a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus” that poses a “risk to both animals and humans” in collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), which is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, and a researcher affiliated with the infamous Wuhan Institute of Virology. The Biden USDA began financing the collaboration for “wet-lab virology” to study “newly emerging avian influenza viruses” in April 2021. The project has already received at least $1 million of U.S. taxpayers’ money to date and is slated to be funded through 2026.”

“USDA serves a vital role detecting and preventing avian influenza. Not just in Iowa, but around the world since diseases do not know or respect international boundaries. While this may require partnering with global competitors and even adversarial nations, we must never compromise public health standards in these efforts,” she continued.

She requested answers to get to the bottom of the full extent taxpayer dollars are being used for risky research connected to our adversaries and the health safety risk it poses.

“It's reckless and indefensible for bird-brained USDA bureaucrats to bankroll dangerous avian flu gain-of-function studies involving virus experimenters from the notorious Wuhan animal lab that likely caused COVID and its CCP-run parent organization, the Chinese Academy of Sciences,” said Justin Goodman, Senior Vice President, White Coat Waste Project. “After the disaster that WCW exposed in Wuhan, taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to foot the bill for animal experiments with foreign adversaries that soup up viruses and can cause pandemics or create bioweapons. We’re grateful for Sen. Ernst’s ongoing leadership in efforts to fight USDA’s reckless spending, and we’re urging Congress to use the forthcoming Farm Bill to ensure the USDA does not ship another red cent of taxpayers’ money to unaccountable animal labs in China, Russia and  other hostile nations. The solution is simple: Stop the money. Stop the madness!”

Read the full letter here.  


Last year, Ernst introduced the TRACKS Act to bring badly needed transparency to how federal dollars are spent, hold the government accountable, and help prevent taxpayers from supporting our adversaries.

Ernst is a supporter of the bipartisan Animal Disease and Disaster Prevention, Surveillance, and Rapid Response Act to improve resources for animal disease preparedness, including Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza that continues to pose a significant threat to Iowa’s agriculture.