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Biotech Rice Espionage

A researcher working at a biotech company in Kansas has been convicted of conspiring to steal genetically engineered rice, Reuters reports.

Weiqiang Zhang, a Chinese national, had been working at Ventria Bioscience as a rice breeder, according to Reuters. He stole hundreds of rice seeds developed by Ventria and stored them at his home. As Reuters reports, employees of a Chinese crop research institute visited him in Kansas in 2013, and upon the visitors' departure, US custom agents uncovered seeds within the visitors' luggage. According to the US Department of Justice, Zhang was convicted on three counts, including conspiracy to steal trade secrets and interstate transportation of stolen property.

Reuters notes that there has been an uptick in international economic espionage, with numbers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation showing a 15 percent rise each year between 2009 and 2014 and then a 53 percent bump in 2015. It points out that there was a similar case last year involving corn seeds and another case involving rice.