A Chinese national pleaded guilty on Thursday to using his “insider status” at an international company based in St. Louis, Missouri, to steal trade secrets for the Chinese government.
According to authorities and court documents, Xiang Haitao, 44, a former resident of St. Louis county, conspired to steal trade secrets from Monsanto, an agricultural biotechnology company best known for its product “Roundup.”
“Despite Xiang’s agreements to protect Monsanto’s intellectual property and repeated training on his obligations to do so, Xiang has now admitted that he stole a trade secret from Monsanto, transferred it to a memory card and attempted to take it to the People’s Republic of China for the benefit of Chinese government,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “With his guilty plea, Xiang is now being held accountable for this unlawful conduct.”
Xiang worked for Monsanto as an imaging scientist from 2008 to 2017. The company along with The Climate Corporation developed a farming software platform that farmers could use to collect agricultural data. An important part of the software was an algorithm known as the Nutrient Optimizer. “Monsanto and The Climate Corporation considered the Nutrient Optimizer a valuable trade secret and their intellectual property,” the DOJ press release said.