Foreign spies now stealing GMO secrets, not just military secrets

Andrei Corn R x
Drought-resistant corn hybrids on display at a DuPont Pioneer sales center near Cairo, Nebraska. Photo by Mary Anne Andrei

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Recently, the FBI caught several employees of Chinese agricultural companies smuggling corn seeds out of the U.S. The seeds’ genetic sequencing was matched to seeds under development by Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer, and LG Seeds and they were labeled with GPS coordinates corresponding to farms where they were being tested.

According to the U.S. government, this theft stems from a dangerous fact: Despite its remarkable landmass, China can’t grow enough food to feed itself. Water shortages and lack of arable terrain have forced their government to buy approximately 94 percent of all corn imported into China each year from the U.S..

The only tenable way for China to meet its own demand is by planting high-performance hybrids, which can double or potentially even triple per-acre corn production. Chinese scientists haven’t developed a significant corn hybrid in years. But Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer, the two American seed giants, have produced so many that they now control 45 percent of all seed sold globally.

The Department of Justice maintains that China is quietly permitting and encouraging companies to steal American agricultural secrets. In fact, a 2011 report prepared by the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive listed “agricultural technology” among the targets “likely to be of greatest interest” to spies from Russia and China.

Disturbingly, they may be right. As the global population continues to climb and climate change makes arable soil and water more scarce, the world’s next superpower will be determined not just by which country has the most military might but also, and more importantly, by its mastery of the technology required to produce large quantities of food.

U.S. government intends to use food as an point of leverage over large, increasingly hungry nations like China. The prosecution of the Chinese corn thieves stands as a warning to the Chinese government, issued through its proxy companies.

Read full, original post: Corn Wars

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