By Frank Morris
St. Louis – The Justice Department has sharpened its anti-trust investigation into Monsanto. The St. Louis-based biotech company is under scrutiny for the allegedly monopolizing the seed industry with its Roundup Ready genetic traits.
Monsanto's Roundup Ready soybean seed is genetically modified to withstand powerful herbicide, and it's popular. More than nine out of ten soy seeds planted in the United States carry the trait.
Monsanto's customers pay a lot, $500 million a year by one estimate, to license the technology, but Monsanto controls the way they use it.
Rival Pioneer filed an anti-trust complaint last year alleging that control amounts to monopoly.
The Department of Justice launched an investigation, and recently escalated it, compelling Monsanto's full cooperation.
"It indicates that this is serious, that it's something the DOJ is taking seriously to the extent that they are not going to simply rely on the candor of Monsanto," said University of Missouri Kansas City law professor Chris Holman.
A Monsanto spokesman said the company's products compete in an open marketplace, that it's been cooperating with the investigation all along, and will continue to do so.