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THE RURAL BLOG: Men charged with stealing seed

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 One of six Chinese nationals accused of traveling across the Midwest to steal trade secrets from U.S. seed manufacturers entered not-guilty pleas Monday in federal court in Des Moines, and a trial date was set for March 31, David Pitt reports for The Associated Press. Four of the other five are in China, which doesn't share an extradition agreement with the United States, and the fifth is in Canada. U.S. Attorney Nicholas Klinefeldt told Pitt that "all avenues are being considered to find and arrest" him.

In a separate case, two Chinese scientists were indicted Dec. 20 in Kansas City "on federal charges accusing them of stealing seeds developed by a U.S. bioscience company and giving the seeds to members of a visiting delegation from China," AP reports. "A federal grand jury in Kansas indicted Weiqiang Zhang, an agricultural seed breeder at Ventria Bioscience's facility in Junction City, and Yan Wengui, a U.S. Department of Agriculture research geneticist in Arkansas, on one count each of conspiracy to steal trade secrets and theft of trade secrets."

"Zhang allegedly took seeds that his employer had grown and kept them at his home in Kansas," AP reports. "After a Chinese delegation visited the U.S., customs agents searched its luggage and found stolen seeds in envelopes and also in makeshift containers, including a newspaper page that had been folded in the shape of an envelope, according to court documents. If convicted, Zhang and Yan could face up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000."

In the other case, "Prosecutors allege in court documents that the men were hiding the seed in a storage unit near Des Moines and eventually taking it to a farm near Monee, Ill., which the FBI said had been purchased by Kings Nower Seed in March 2012," Pitt writes. Kings Nower is a subsidiary of Beijing-based conglomerate DBN Group. One of the accused is the CEO of Kings Nower Seed. "Court documents filed Jan. 8 also show the government is attempting to seize the 40-acre Illinois farm that appears to have served as a Midwest base of operation for the Chinese men. It is about 40 miles south of Chicago." (Read more)

Indictments were announced on Dec. 19, with the six men "accused of traveling across the Midwest to steal millions of dollars in seed technology trade secrets for use at their China-based seed company," Emily Schettler reports for the Des Moines Register. "The men are accused of trying to steal a parent line of corn seed from Dupont Pioneer, Monsanto and LG Seeds and covertly transferring it to China. Federal prosecutors estimate its value at five to eight years of research worth at least $30 million to $40 million."