Accusations from Iowa farmers: China allegedly stealing American seeds

08 Aug 2023

Accusations from Iowa farmers: China allegedly stealing American seeds

By Aniket Gupta 

Farmers in Iowa are making accusations against the Chinese state, alleging the theft of invaluable seed samples from America. These seeds have undergone genetic modification to enhance crop productivity, and it is believed that China intends to replicate them domestically. This situation arises during a period of increased tension between the US and China, fueled by events such as the appearance of a spy balloon earlier in the year and an ongoing trade war, further adding to the sensitivity surrounding the issue.

On Thursday, a panel discussion on the United States' relationship with China was held at the Cedar Rapids Country Club by the Bastion Institute. The discussion featured three prominent Republicans: US Sen. Joni Ernst and US Rep. Ashley Hinson, both from Iowa, and US Rep. Mike Gallagher from Wisconsin.

Ernst and Gallagher have jointly sponsored legislation aimed at establishing "rings-of-fire" in the Indo-Pacific region to discourage Chinese aggression. The proposed bill mandates the Pentagon to devise a strategy to counter China's ballistic and cruise missiles capable of targeting US interests throughout the Indo-Pacific area.

A delegation of three House Select Committee members travelled to the rural area to hold talks with stakeholders in the local agricultural industry. Gallagher and Hinson, along with House Select China Committee ranking member Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi organized a roundtable event in Dysart, located in Tama County. The discussion centered on the issue of the Chinese Communist Party's agricultural technology theft.

The panel discussion highlighted a notable incident from 2011, when a Dysart farmer witnessed Mo Hailong, dressed in business attire, unlawfully excavating valuable hybrid seeds, which were later shipped to China. Subsequently, the FBI apprehended Mo Hailong and six accomplices for their involvement in stealing US agricultural technology worth $30 million.

Mike Gallagher, the chairman of the select committee and a Republican representative from Wisconsin, expressed his view, stating, “In my opinion, it’s part of a much larger, country-wide, slow-motion heist of American intellectual property.” He said his company had a duty to protect its technology assets, in Iowa just as firms in Silicon Valley protect their technology.

Raja Krishnamoorthi, a ranking Democratic member, expressed his concerns, stating, “We can't sustain this anymore.” He emphasized that the USA should not find itself in a situation where every secret developed through research is continuously stolen from it.

The farmers assert that they are required to pay a “tech fee” for using genetically modified seeds. Consequently, they believe that the Chinese stealing these seeds amounts to stealing from all of America.

Iowa’s local farmers and stakeholders have urged the members of Congress to take strategic action to address this situation.

Earlier this year, national security concerns were raised regarding the acquisition of a plot of land located just 12 miles from the Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota by the Binzhou-headquartered Fufeng Group. The company had intentions of constructing a wet corn milling plant on the site. On January 27, Andrew Hunter, an assistant secretary of the Department of the Air Force, wrote a letter expressing the department’s perspective that the project represented "a significant threat to national security.”

According to the FBI, Chinese intellectual property theft inflicts a substantial economic toll on the U.S. economy, ranging from $225 billion to $600 billion annually. The agency characterizes China as the primary global infringer of proprietary knowledge. 

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