Monsanto is the largest seed company in the world. It controls 95 percent of the market for insect and herbicide resistant cotton traits. In 2008, Monsanto had shares of up to 65 percent for traited corn and soybeans and about 45 percent for traited corn. During the late 1990s and through the 2000s, Monsanto acquired almost 40 companies “creating the horizontal and vertical integration that underlies the firm’s platforms in cotton, corn, and soybeans,” according to a whitepaper by American Antitrust Institute’s vice president and senior fellow, Diana Moss. Most of the acquisitions were seed companies.
The whitepaper cites a report by the Government Accounting Office (GAO), which noted that Monsanto’s U.S. patents for Roundup Ready soybean seeds give it power over the seed market. It also points out that during the years 2002 to 2009 there were almost 60 patent infringement and antitrust court cases in federal district and appeals court. Almost 55 percent involve Monsanto as the plaintiff, and 20 percent as the defendant. This amounts to three-quarters of all the cases. “The lack of competition and innovation in the marketplace has reduced farmers’ choices and enabled Monsanto to raise prices unencumbered,” said Keith Mudd from the Organization for Competitive Markets, after Monsanto decided to raise some GM maize seed prices by 35 percent.
Obama administration investigating Monsanto
Christine Varney, chief of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, said last summer that “competition issues affecting agriculture have been a priority for me.” In October, Monsanto said it received requests from the Justice Department about possible violations of antitrust laws.
Peter Carstensen, a former Justice Department lawyer, recently said, “The Justice Department has clearly begun a major investigation and is moving ahead.”
“My guess is that they are looking at a number of situations that involve dominant firms with near monopoly power and are interested in reviving and enforcing the Sherman Act, Section 2, which governs monopolization,” Tim Greaney said recently. Greaney is also a former Justice Department lawyer
EU revoked GM patent in 2007
In 2007, the European Patent Office (EPO) revoked the 13-year patent on Monsanto’s GMO soybeans. The patent gave Monsanto about 90 percent of the market for GMO soybeans. Scientists said it was too broad of a patent.
“No patent symbolizes the brokenness of the patent system better than Monsanto’s species-wide patent on genetically engineered soybeans,” said Hope Shand of ETC Group. “Monsanto’s patent is both technically flawed and morally unacceptable.”
Shand added, “Monsanto’s patent is undermining the economic security of farming communities and jeopardizing access to seeds – the first link in the food chain. Whoever controls the seeds controls the food supply.”
“The statistics speak for themselves,” said Greenpeace’s patent expert Dr. Christoph Then. “A single company has been awarded sweeping monopoly control over one of the world’s most important food crops.”
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