Universities have been particularly careless, and much of their research has been stolen.
Here's a good read about the Chinese stealing the food right off our table. (Well, almost!)
On September 30, 2012, agents from the FBI contacted U.S. Customs and Border Protection at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago with an urgent request. They wanted bags from two passengers on an outbound flight to Beijing pulled for immediate inspection. The passengers didn’t track as dangerous criminals: Li Shaoming, president of Beijing Kings Nower Seed Science & Technology, a large Chinese agricultural company that develops corn, rice, cotton, and canola seeds, and Ye Jian, the company’s crop research manager.
You wouldn't have to work very hard on the corn thing.
I know of vast cornfields in MD where various seeds are tested, and the plots have signs identifying the identifying number. Back roads; pull over and grab a plant or two, get the scrapes you need to do your work.
It's not quite that simple.
Only one of 200 plants qualifies as a mother plant, and identifying them is not easy.
Read the article.
It's pretty interesting.