The Seed Competitive Issue

December 20, 2009 06:00 PM

Pam Smith, Farm Journal Seeds & Production Editor
Competition in agriculture is a topic you'll hear a lot about in 2010 as the Department of Justice (DOJ) takes up the topic in a series of workshops. First up on the discussion list is the seed industry.
The very nature of the seed industry makes it competitive because most agricultural seeds are purchased each year. Monsanto Company got a taste of the attention on Monday, December 14, when the Associated Press (AP) news service released an investigation into Monsanto's role in seed business and its trait agreements. Read the AP story.
There have been allegations of concentration in the seed market for years. Monsanto, of course, has its own take on the issue. The company was an early leader in investing in biotechnology. They've broadly licensed their innovations—even to competitors—and the company has grown because of these marketing moves. No one can deny the monetary investment that has gone into developing these seed innovations. Between 1980 and 1996 (the year Roundup Ready soybeans came to market), Monsanto figures show an investment of $1.5 billion in biotech research and development.
Contrary to allegations of fewer choices in the seed marketplace, Monsanto maintains that farmers have more choice than ever. There are more trait technologies available than ever before and many of them come from other developers. You can read Monsanto's very interesting and thorough response to the AP article.
The U.S. Department of Justice is teaming up with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to take a hard look at all aspects of competition in agriculture. These workshops are not seed centric--they will also delve into livestock, poultry, dairy and trade competitiveness issues. The two federal agencies have invited agribusiness and farmers to participate in the discussions and are interested in receiving comments on the application of antitrust laws to vertical integration in the agricultural sector including, the scope, functionality, and limits of current or potential rules.
Want your voice heard? Get moving because the deadline is close. Submit written comments in both paper and electronic form to the Department of Justice and no later than Dec. 31, 2009.
All comments received will be publicly posted. Two paper copies should be addressed to the Legal Policy Section, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 450 5th Street, N.W., Suite 11700, Washington, D.C. 20001. The Department's Antitrust Division is requesting that the paper copies of each comment be sent by courier or overnight service, if possible. The electronic version of each comment should be submitted to Detailed agendas and schedules for the workshops will be made available on the Antitrust Division's web site at

You can email Pam Smith at

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