, Farm Journal Seeds & Production Editor
Monsanto Company confirmed Jan. 14, 2010, that the U.S. Department of Justice has issued a civil investigative demand (CID) requesting information on its soybean traits business.
Company spokesman Mimi Ricketts says the measure is primarily a confirmation that farmers and seed companies will continue to have access to first-generation Roundup Ready soybeans traits when the patent expires in 2014. Monsanto announced in December that the trait will be available royalty-free to universities and others who want to use it after the completion of the 2014 planting season. The company is transitioning to a higher yielding technology called Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield (RR2Y), which it also licenses to independent seed companies.
A CID is a formal legal request that allows the Justice Department to gather documents and provide information for an investigation. Scott Partridge, Monsanto's Chief Deputy General Counsel, says the company has voluntarily cooperated with regulators to address questions about its business and the broader agriculture industry over the last several years, and will continue to do so.
"We respect the thorough regulatory process. We believe our business practices are fair, pro-competitive and in compliance with the law,” says Partridge.
"Given the pace and scale of agriculture biotechnology adoption, as well as the expiration of the Roundup Ready soybean patents in 2014, we understand why regulators would want to know more about competition in modern agriculture and how products are commercialized and used,” Partridge says. "We believe an objective review will show our business and our industry to be competitive.”
A turf war over seed competitiveness has been escalating over the past nine months. DuPont has accused Monsanto of illegal anti-competitive practices, while Monsanto has countered that DuPont has mounted a smear campaign.
The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are gearing up to do a complete review of the entire agriculture industry, including the seed and trait industry. The first meeting, March 12, 2010, in Ankeny, Iowa, focuses on seed technology, market integration, market transparency and buyer power. For more information on those hearings: Agriculture and Antitrust Enforcement Issues in Our 21st Century Economy