Piracy In The Fields: Agricultural Trade Secrets A Tempting Target

Bryan Thompson for Harvest Public Media:  As a group of visiting scientists prepared to board a plane in Hawaii that would take them back home to China, U.S. customs agents found rice seeds in their luggage. Those seeds are likely to land at least one scientist in federal prison.

Agriculture today is a high-tech business, but as that technology has developed, so has the temptation to take short cuts and to steal trade secrets that could unlock huge profits. The FBI calls agricultural economic espionage “a growing threat” and some are worried that biotech piracy can spell big trouble for a dynamic and growing U.S. industry.

On the western outskirts of Junction City, Kansas, just off of Interstate 70, sits an unassuming industrial building. The white lettering on the blue sign out front reads, Ventria Bioscience and driving by, it is hard to believe the nondescript building houses a cutting-edge research facility.

Scientists at Ventria developed a way to genetically-engineer rice to grow human proteins for medical uses. The process places a microscopic piece of synthetic DNA into the rice genome, which tells the growing plant to make the desired protein as it matures.  Full Article:

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