Chinese, with genetic research lagging, caught stealing ‘designer’ hybrid seeds

seeds top master
Image Credit: Daniel Acker, The New York Times

The case of the missing corn seeds first broke in May 2011 when a manager at a DuPont research farm in east-central Iowa noticed a man on his knees, digging up the field. It resulted in the arrest of Mo Hailong last December and the indictment of five other Chinese citizens on charges of stealing trade secrets in what the authorities and agriculture experts have called an unusual and brazen scheme to undercut expensive, time-consuming research.

The seeds that Mr. Mo and his associates were after are called inbreds, meaning they come from self-pollinating corn plants. Inbreds are eventually crossed with other inbreds to create hybrid seeds that are then sold to farmers, and they are bred to be durable in the face of drought and pests. One inbred line takes five to eight years of research and can cost $30 million to $40 million to develop, federal prosecutors said.

A company or farmer can replant a stolen inbred seed and eventually use the new seeds to cross with a separate inbred to produce a hybrid — a shortcut that avoids years of costly research.

Read the full, original article: Designer Seed Thought to Be Latest Target by Chinese

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