Seed Theft Exposes Vulnerability

Reuters writer¬†Julia Edwards reported this week that, “Tim Burrack, a northern Iowa farmer in his 44th growing season, has taken to keeping a wary eye out for unfamiliar vehicles around his 300 acres of genetically modified corn seeds.

“Along with other farmers in this vast agricultural region, he has upped his vigilance ever since Mo Hailong and six other Chinese nationals were accused by U.S. authorities in 2013 of digging up seeds from Iowa farms and planning to send them back to China.

“The case, in which Mo pleaded guilty in January, has laid bare the value — and vulnerability — of advanced food technology in a world with 7 billion mouths to feed, 1.36 billion of them Chinese.”

The article noted that, “Citing that case and others as evidence of a growing economic and national security threat to America’s farm sector, U.S. law enforcement officials are urging agriculture executives and security officers to increase their vigilance and report any suspicious activity.

“But on a March 30 visit to Iowa, Justice Department officials could offer little advice to ensure against similar thefts, underlining how agricultural technology lying in open fields can be more vulnerable than a computer network or a factory floor.”

Ms. Edwards added that, “The FBI and the U.S. Justice Department say cases of espionage in the agriculture sector have been growing since Mo was first discovered digging in an Iowan field in May 2011. Over the past two years, U.S. companies, government research facilities and universities have all been targeted, according to the FBI.”

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