Foreign seed spies are literally crawling around on U.S. farmland. When Dupont Pioneer employees saw Chinese national Mo Hailong (aka Robert Mo) milling about in one of their corn fields, near Tama, Iowa, they went right to the FBI in 2011 — setting off a convoluted cloak-and-dagger chase of Mo and his associates.
Mo is the director of international business for the Dabeinong Technology Group Company, part of the DBN Group. “DBN Group is believed to be a Chinese conglomerate with a corn and seed subsidiary company, Kings Nower Seed,” according to the Journal Express.
Mo and a handful of buddies are accused of stealing seed, hiding it in storage and then taking it to an Illinois farm as a central dropoff point. (The Illinois farm is owned by Kings Nower Seed.) The tale is scripted for the big screen: bugs, GPS tracking devices, hidden seeds, FBI tails and evasive driving techniques.
In 2012, the FBI nabbed several of Mo’s associates as they tried to move seed out of the U.S. From USA Today: “At O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, authorities found envelopes hidden in a popcorn box stored in the luggage of Li Shaoming, believed to be CEO of Kings Nower Seed, documents show. Li's travel companion, Ye Jian, a Kings Nower Seed employee, had seeds wrapped in 30 Subway restaurant napkins in his luggage. Ye had more napkins in his pockets, according to documents.
“North of Burlington, Vt., a man named Wang Hongwei was crossing into Canada by car. He had lost an FBI tail by suddenly turning into a parking lot. Authorities found 44 bags with envelopes containing corn kernels, a notebook with GPS coordinates and a camera with hundreds of pictures of corn fields, documents show.”
Popcorn boxes, Subway napkins, and shaking a tail?
Mo also mailed 15 packages of seed to an address in Florida via UPS — a total weight of 341 pounds.
Mo is accused of trying to pilfer seed secrets from U.S. seed companies and take them to China. He and several others are charged with stealing seed technology worth up to $40 million.
No doubt, much, much more to come.
See related: Scientist in Ark. Charged in Seed-Theft Conspiracy
For what is arguably the greatest seed theft in history, see When rubber ruled the world