FBI: Plot to Steal Seed Corn a National Security Threat


by  Grant Rodgers, The Des Moines Register


Does protecting America's lucrative genetically modified seed corn industry warrant the use of national security laws intended to fight terrorists and government spies?

The FBI says yes, and it has invoked the broader powers afforded by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, to surreptitiously gather evidence against two Chinese siblings accused of plotting to steal patented seed from Iowa cornfields, according to court records.

Stealing hybrid seeds enhanced with traits such as drought resistance doesn't pose the same immediate threat as a suicide bomber, but the FBI treats economic espionage and similar trade secret theft as dangerous threats to national security.

“It's people's lives,” said Christopher Burgess, CEO of security consulting firm Prevendra and a former employee of the Central Intelligence Agency. “It's our livelihood. It's why we feed so much of the world is because we invest in research and development.”

But defense attorneys argue the government tactics constitute an unprecedented, dangerous overreach on a case that is nothing more than a trade secret dispute.


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Source:  The Des Moines Register


Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS  Field of corn. Ekalaka, MT., July 2013

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