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Chinese Steal American Seeds From Our Fields

China will surely face shortages of corn in this coming decade; the Chinese think ahead, stealing seeds, the intellectual property of American companies, right out of our fields.

It was a chilly spring day when an Iowa farmer spotted something odd in his freshly planted cornfield: a short, bald Asian man on his knees, digging up seeds.

Not just any seeds — special inbred seeds, the product of years of secret research and millions of dollars in corporate investment, so confidential that not even the farmer knew exactly what he was growing.

The Iowa resident approached the trespasser, who grew flush and nervous, stammering something about being from a local university. When the farmer diverted his attention briefly to take a phone call, the stranger bolted to a waiting car and sped away.

That curious encounter eventually led to an exhaustive five-year federal investigation and prosecution into one of the most brazen examples of Chinese economic espionage against the U.S., a crime that annually costs American companies at least $150 billion...

“You have to have some kind of stick to get them to think twice,” said Melanie Reid, professor at Lincoln Memorial University’s Duncan School of Law. “Because these investigations can be quite complicated and many of the players are in other countries and protected from U.S. prosecution, it is unclear whether these types of cases are making a dent. Theft of trade secrets is not only promoted by Chinese government policies and state-backed companies, but it also reflects their societal attitude toward intellectual property. They simply don’t see stealing U.S. trade secrets as a crime.”

in 1954, science fiction author Jack Vance published his wonderful novel The Houses of Iszm. The Iszic were the best botanists known; they created amazing house trees that were unique and without equal.


(The Houses of Iszm by Jack Vance)

The Iszic were fanatical about security and guarded their intellectual property - the seeds - with a variety of measures.

The inhabitants of a planet Iszm, a species known as the Iszic, have evolved the native giant trees into living homes, with all needs and various luxuries supplied by the trees’ own natural growth. The Iszic maintain a jealously guarded monopoly, exporting only enough trees to keep prices high and make a great profit. Ailie Farr, a human botanist, goes to Iszm (like many others before him, of many species) to steal a female tree, which might allow the propagation of the species off world and break the monopoly.

It was assumed as a matter of course that visitors came to Iszm with a single purpose: to steal a female house. Cosmographers, students, babes-in-arms, notorious scoundrels: the Iszic cynically applied the same formula to all—microscopic inspection of mind and body and detailed surveillance.

Only the fact that they turned up so many house-thieves justified the procedure.

From a distance, it seemed simple enough to steal a house. A seed no larger than a grain of barley could be sewn into a strap; a seedling could be woven into the pattern of a shawl; a young shoot could be taped to a rocket-missile and launched into space. There were a thousand fool-proof ways to steal an Iszic house; all had been tried, and the unsuccessful thieves had been conducted to the Mad House, their Iszic escorts courteous to the last. As realists, the Iszic knew that some day—a year, a hundred years, a thousand years—the monopoly would be broken. As fanatically secretive controllers of the monopoly they intended to postpone this day as long as possible.

Detailed story from LATimes.

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