Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Chinese theft and espionage, in an Iowa cornfield (and other agricultural crime)

The Christian Science Monitor reported earlier this week on the F.B.I.'s recent attention to agricultural espionage.  An excerpt from Josh Kenworthy's story follows:  
United States law enforcement agencies are urging farmers and businesses more broadly to be increasingly vigilant amid a rise in attempted thefts of genetically engineered seed and other commercial secrets.   
Mai Hailong, one of six Chinese nationals U.S. authorities accused in 2013 of digging up seeds in Iowa farms with plans to send them back to China, pleaded guilty in January.  
Kenworthy notes that the U.S. Department of Justice prosecuted the case as one of national security rather than handling it as a typical criminal case.  

Another agricultural crime story--this one about nut theft--is here.  An excerpt follows:  
California's agriculturists are beefing up security to strike at increasingly sophisticated efforts to divert their high-end nuts to the black market. Criminals find farm records so they can impersonate reputable shipping companies. A thief posing as a driver can take a truck-load of freshly processed nuts or pistachios, with a value as high as $500,000, and divert the entire shipment to the black market at a massive profit.
A rural crime-prevention specialist at the California Farm Bureau in Sacramento compared these nut heists to another crime sometimes associated with rural places.
Somebody who is stealing copper wire to make a quick buck for a quick fix is very different from somebody who is masterminding a plot to steal hundreds of thousands of pounds of nuts across county lines.
An earlier post (2013) on the topic of nut theft is here, and a quick search for stories on the topic on NPR brought up stories from 2008 (almonds), 2012 (almonds) and 2013 (walnuts).

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