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Ten Years for GMO Seed Theft

A US District Court Judge has sentenced a researcher to 10 years in jail for conspiring to steal genetically altered rice, Reuters reports.

The researcher, Weiqiang Zhang, a Chinese national, had been working at Ventria Bioscience as a rice breeder and was then accused of taking hundreds of rice seeds from the company, it adds. He was convicted last year of conspiracy to steal trade secrets and interstate transportation of stolen property. Officials also said Zhang had been visited by employees of a Chinese crop research institute and when those visitors were stopped upon their departure, customs agents found the seeds in their luggage.

"Today's sentence demonstrates the significant consequences awaiting those who would steal trade secrets from American companies," John Cronan, the Department of Justice's acting assistant attorney general, tells Reuters.

It adds that US officials have warned agricultural companies about an uptick in suspicious activity.