On December 12, 2013, six Chinese nationals were indicted in federal court in Iowa, charged with conspiracy to steal seed corn from three American agribusiness giants (DuPont Pioneer, Monsanto and LG Seeds). I first learned of this case from some of my nephews, who had read about it in Farm Journal. It shows that Chinese espionage includes not only military and industrial targets, but agricultural ones as well. It raises grave questions about our legal immigration and naturalization systems.
There is a delicious irony here. Corporate agribusiness has a lot to answer for in the demographic replacement of the American people. The Big Ag lobby has promoted cheap labor and Open Borders, which actually harms traditional American family farms, such as the one I grew up on. But Big Ag lobbyists don’t care. Now, though, our loose immigration and naturalization policies are harming them.
The conspiracy first came to light when a DuPont Pioneer manager, driving through rural Iowa, spied a Chinese man digging in an unmarked test field:
Crouched on his hands and knees under an Iowa sky, Mo Hailong quickly dug in the rows of freshly planted seed corn. Just the day before, May 2, 2011, he and coworker Wang Lei, vice chairman of Kings Nower Seed of China, stopped at this same field near Tama, Iowa. The farmer told them he was planting seed corn.
With each shovel, Hailong found pay dirt: DuPont Pioneer’s latest parent genetics, the building blocks for the next generation of high-yielding hybrids. The men hoped these seeds would help their own company keep up with global competition.
Mo’s head snapped up as a truck approached, dust billowing behind. A DuPont Pioneer field manager pulled over and hopped out as Mo rose from his knees. The field manager questioned what Mo was doing, to which he gave a well-rehearsed response, "We’re on our way to a research conference." It’s an answer he had used before, but this time, with dirt under his nails and seeds in his pocket, he knew its effectiveness was compromised. Using the difference in culture and native languages, Mo tried to mask further suspicion. Then, the field manager’s phone rang. As he turned away, Mo hurried to Lei, waiting in the rental car. He jumped in and Lei swung the car around on the narrow dirt road. The field manager looked up from his phone to see the car and two Chinese nationals racing away.
Tech Heist: Seeds of Deceit, By Farm Journal Editors, Farm Journal Ag Web, January 25, 2014
The FBI began an investigation that resulted in the indictment of Dr. Mo and five others.
Corn, also known as maize, scientific designation Zea mays, is used for feeding both humans and livestock. Maize is grown worldwide, but the U.S. produces 40% of it, mostly in the great Corn Belt of the American Midwest, which has been described as “the most productive agricultural civilization the world has ever seen”.
I grew up on an Oklahoma farm where we raised corn. My dad and brother grow it today. In my mind, there’s nothing like corn on the cob!
Zea mays was developed thousands of years ago by Indians in what is now southern Mexico, so you could say the crop owes its origin to genetic manipulation. In the 1930s, the majority of U.S. corn production switched over to hybridization. The main scientist behind hybrid corn: George Harrison Shull, who also founded the journal Genetics and who worked for a time at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (from which DNA discoverer James Watson, was notoriously forced out for speechcrime about Africa’s potential in yet another of the recent apparently never-ending series of PC atrocities).
In corn hybridization, agronomists inbreed lines of corn for several generations, then cross them to produce hybrids. Then the hybrids may be crossed with others to produce “double-cross hybrids”.
A patented inbred seed line takes 5 to 8 years to develop. It can cost $30-$40 million.
China is the world’s second-biggest maize producer after the U.S. However, the Chinese have not been as successful as the Americans in hybridization. They have not developed a major maize hybrid since 2001.
Of course, if Chinese companies could simply steal American seed corn, they could short-circuit the process. Which is exactly what this team of Chinese corn thieves were doing.
So who is the mysterious Dr. Mo? His name is Mo Hailong (Chinese style), also known as Robert Mo, and he received his mechanical engineering doctorate from Kansas State University, in 2002. Of course, a Florida newspaper calls him a “West Boca Man” since he is a resident of Boca Raton, Florida. [West Boca man accused of stealing trade secrets from U.S. seed companies, By Brett Clarkson, Sun Sentinel, February 22, 2014]. But in fact he came to the US from China fifteen years ago. Remember how Mitt Romney wanted to “staple a green card” to the diplomas of foreign-born STEM graduates? Well, this STEM graduate did get a green card. And look what happened!
Mo is the Director of International Business of the Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group, which in turn is part of the DBN group, which in turn has a subsidiary known as Beijing Kings Nower Seed S & T Co. Ltd. (BKNS).
Mo’s co-conspirators are
None of these individuals are currently in custody. It may be possible to extradite Wang Hongwei from Canada, but the U.S. and China have no extradition treaty.
Are there even going to be any repercussions for this Chinese company? These weren’t rogue employees: they were high-ranking officials. Some of the group were wiretapped and their conversation made it clear they knew what they were doing was illegal.
Co-conspirators Ye and Li were apprehended when they tried to fly to China, stuffing their luggage with seed corn hidden in microwave popcorn boxes, in grocery-type bags, even in pockets. The seed corn was confiscated—but they were allowed to continue to China.
Wang Hongwei, who may have known he was under surveillance, attempted to drive into Canada. When stopped, he also had corn kernels in envelopes in bags, along with notebooks with GPS coordinates and digital photos of corn fields. All this was confiscated—but Wang was allowed to continue to Canada.
Nearly half the confiscated seeds which were evaluated turned out to be inbred or parent line genetics. They were worth millions.
Mo has pled not guilty and is to face trial on March 31st. [One Suspect in Seed Theft Case Pleads Not Guilty, Farm Futures, February 7, 2014]
Mo’s lawyer, Xian Wang, is a resident of China but has a license to practice law in the state of New York and has received permission to defend Mo in Iowa.
Also in December, in a totally separate but similar case, the indictment of two other Chinese Ag scientists was announced. [Chinese Men Arrested For Seed Tech Theft, Farm Futures, December 16, 2013,] These two were attempting to steal rice seed samples from a Kansas research facility belonging to Ventria Bioscience. Weiquang Zhang, a legal permanent resident of the U.S., actually worked for Ventria, while Wengui Yan, a naturalized American (!) was a geneticist working for the USDA (!!).They stole rice seeds, then passed them on to a Chinese delegation that had been visiting U.S. agricultural facilities.
So here are two separate cases of Chinese agricultural espionage exploiting our legal immigration and naturalization systems. How many others are there? Even the New York Times (!!!) speculates all this “could mean that the Chinese have long been stealing from American seed companies without getting caught.” [Designer Seed Thought To Be Latest Target By Chinese, By John Eligon And Patrick Zuo, February 4, 2014]
Our lawmakers ought to asking some hard questions:
American citizen Allan Wall (email him) moved back to the U.S.A. in 2008 after many years residing in Mexico. Allan's wife is Mexican, and their two sons are bilingual. In 2005, Allan served a tour of duty in Iraq with the Texas Army National Guard. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his Mexidata.info articles are archived here ; his News With Views columns are archived here; and his website is here.