STUTTGART, Ark. — A couple of Chinese researchers are facing charges of conspiracy to steal rice production technology intended for medical uses.
The formal charges are conspiracy to steal trade secrets and conspiracy to commit interstate transportation of stolen property.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection discovered the rice seeds in Liu and Sun’s luggage at the Honolulu airport.
The stolen seeds were developed by Ventria Bioscience out of Colorado and intended for various pharmaceutical and medicinal needs.
The more than $70 million venture involved the creation of rice seeds embedded with certain proteins.
“These rice seeds may be small, but the research and investment that went into the science that made them possible is of great value,” said Cody Hiland, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas.
Jarrod Hardke, a rice expert with the University of Arkansas, touched on the warranted concern by rice growers in the Natural State, saying success can attract certain individuals.
“We’ve been very successful in achieving very high yields and very high-quality rice lines and so anytime you’re doing very well, being very successful at something, others are going to take notice and have an interest in that,” Hardke said.
This isn’t the first time Chinese researchers have gotten involved with rice stealing attempts.
In fact, the two rice researchers indicted on Friday, were assisted by a couple of other Chinese nationals who were convicted of similar charges in 2013.
Joe Mencer, chairman of the USA Rice Farmers Board who’s been growing rice since 1979, isn’t surprised by the actions of the Chinese researchers.
The FBI investigated the five-year long case.
The accused individuals could spend up to 10 years in prison if convicted of conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets – in this case secrets so small they’re in the capsule of a rice seed.