Mo Hailong stole inbred corn seeds, developed by Monsanto and DuPont in Iowa, as part of plan to use them in Chinese business. A Chinese man pleaded guilty in a US court on Wednesday to stealing patent-protected corn seed from agribusiness giants Monsanto and DuPont to take back to China for commercial use.
Mo Hailong, 46, participated in a plot to steal inbred corn seeds from the two US companies so that his then employer, Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group, could use them in its own seed business, the US Department of Justice said.
Mo “admitted to participating in the theft of inbred – or parent – corn seeds from fields in the southern district of Iowa for the purpose of transporting those seeds to China,” the department said in a statement.
“The stolen inbred seeds constitute the valuable intellectual property of DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto.”
The crime carries a punishment of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. However, as part of his plea agreement, he will not be sentenced to more than five years in prison. Mo will be sentenced at a later date.
The guilty plea came a week after five people were charged in a scheme to steal trade secrets for Chinese-controlled firms from DuPont.
A grand jury indictment unsealed in San Francisco said the group, which included three Chinese people, sought DuPont trade secrets on producing chloride-route titanium dioxide, or TiO2, a valuable white pigment used in paint, plastics and paper.
The Justice Department said the theft was on behalf of “companies controlled by the government of the People’s Republic of China”.