Unbeknownst to them, the FBI had placed GPS tracking devices on their cars and trailed them as they stopped at Iowa and Missouri cornfields to pick ears and at seed dealers to get bags of seed. The six, some of whom are not yet in custody, had been under the surveillance of customs agents. One was detained at Miami on his way back to China, and was caught with seed corn in his luggage.
Seed corn in his luggage. Not military secrets. Not fissionable nuclear material. Seed corn.
These foiled plots illustrate the value of the seed that is planted across the Cornbelt, particularly in a hungry world. And it answers why the Chinese have been rejecting shiploads of corn, which has been in retaliation for the discovery of the agricultural espionage. The impact last week pushed the corn market down about 10 cents. The victim of that was not Pioneer, nor Monsanto, but only the farmer who is reading this and now knows why the value of his corn eroded.
And farm policy critics wonder why agriculture needs a safety net.