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Man working for Chinese company charged with conspiracy to steal corn seed in Iowa, Illinois

Federal authorities in Iowa have charged a Florida man working for a Chinese company with conspiracy to steal patented corn seed trade secrets from two leading U.S. seed developers.

U.S. Attorney Nicholas A. Klinefeldt announced Thursday that Mo Hailong, also known as Robert Mo, is in custody.

He is alleged to have taken corn from fields in Iowa and Illinois with five other men working for a subsidiary of Chinese-based DBN Group. Authorities are searching for the others.

Klinefeldt says the theft of a parent seed could cost a U.S. company many years of research time and up to $40 million.

The FBI began investigating when DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto reported suspicious activity in cornfields.

An attorney is not yet listed for Hailong.