Hot Topics in Investigation: Public Perception Survey, Teenage Detectives, Agriculture Espionage
High-Stakes Espionage in the Corn Field
When people think of corporate espionage, most immediately consider computer technology, medical research, or trading secrets. Few would think of agriculture as a hot spot for unethical business practices, but the theft of inbred corn seeds and distribution to competitors has been happening for at least 15 years. With the development of transgenic crops, the stakes have risen, and recently federal prosecutors have arrested several Chinese citizens for hijacking proprietary seeds.
Mo Hailong, a resident of Florida working for a seed company based in China, was discovered on a DuPont Pioneer seed company, and later mailed 15 packages weighing in at 350 pounds to his home in Florida. The cost? $1,153.
“Mr. Mo and his associates knew which fields to target even though they were not marked. It’s being reported that the FBI is investigating the possibility of an “inside” accomplice. The FBI began a physical surveillance of Mr. Mo and his band of seed renegades in April 2012. This is where the fun really begins with GPS tracking devices placed in rental vehicles along with the ability to monitor conversations. It was soon learned that King Nower Seed had purchased a 40-acre farm near Monee, Ill., for $600,000. ”
The article, written by UW-Extension Crops and Soils Agent Mike Ranking, explains that the seed capers had rented storage units in which they stashed their purchases until they could be shipped to their farm or back to China. While traveling through O'Hare Airport in Chicago, customs officials found the corn seeds wrapped in restaurant napkins and hidden in microwavable popcorn boxes. In connection with this case, six men have been charged with theft of proprietary seed genetics.
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