Chinese woman charged in plot to steal U.S. corn technology

Kansas City (Reuters) - A Chinese woman has been arrested and charged with trying to steal patented U.S. seed technology as part of a plot to smuggle types of specialised corn from farm fields in the U.S. Midwest for use in China, authorities said on Wednesday.

The woman, Mo Yun, is married to the founder and chairman of a Chinese conglomerate that runs a corn seed subsidiary. She and her brother, Mo Hailong, worked together and with others to steal the valuable corn seed from Iowa and Illinois, according to law enforcement officials.

Mo Hailong was indicted and arrested in December. Mo Hailong is director of the international business of the Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group Co, a part of DBN Group, which is run by Shao Genhuo. DBN operates a corn seed subsidiary called Kings Nower Seed, according to Nicholas Klinefeldt, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa.

Mo Yun is married to Shao Genhuo, said Klinefeldt. The others involved in the conspiracy include employees at U.S. seed companies who provided locations where experiments with the genetically altered seeds took place; or they provided gene sequencing information for the bio-engineered seeds, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Iowa.

Both Iowa-based DuPont Pioneer, the agricultural unit of DuPont, and Missouri-based Monsanto, two of the world's largest agricultural seed companies, have said they are cooperating with federal authorities in the ongoing probe.

The investigation began after DuPont Pioneer security staff detected suspicious activity in fields where the company was testing new types of seed, and notified authorities.

Both Monsanto and DuPont develop and sell genetically altered seeds that are coveted by many farmers because they help farmers fight insect and weed problems, and can yield more in adverse growing conditions. But the seed technology is patented and the seeds are higher priced than conventional seeds.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.