Two Chinese researchers have been charged with seed-trade theft and are being held in Little Rock, Arkansas.
They are accused of stealing seed and trade secrets and trying to pass them to a delegation of visitors from China.
One of the accused was working as a plant breeder, the other as a research genetist, both of them at a research facility in Kansas.
Charged are Wengui Yan of Stuttgart, Ark., and Weiqiang Zhang of Manhattan, Kan.
The American Seed Trade Association issued a news release praising officials for detecting the situation.
The association said it “is deeply concerned by the action that has led to the arrest of individuals conspiring to steal and export seed products, seed technology and trade secrets developed by U.S. agriculture companies.
“The swift action sends the message that no matter the nationality, either domestic or international, this practice is unacceptable,” said the news release from the American Seed Trade Association.
Chinese researchers have been aggressively pursuing genetic manipulation and gene transfer technology to tackle challenges such as drought, disease, insects and nitrogen fixation.