The Associated Press has found confidential contracts “detailing Monsanto Co.’s business practices” that “reveal how the seed giant is squeezing competitors, controlling smaller companies and protecting its dominance over the multibillion dollar market for genetically altered crops.” Monsanto owns the patents on corn and soybean seed that is altered to be resistant to the company’s Roundup herbicide. Monsanto then licenses that genetic technology to other seed companies.
The AP found that “access to Monsanto’s genes comes at a cost and with plenty of string’s attached.” Monsanto’s contracts prohibit companies from breeding plants that combine its traits with others. “That gives Monsanto the ability to effectively lock out competitors from inserting their patented traits into the vast share of U.S. crops that already contain Monsanto’s genes,” AP reporter Christopher Leonard wrote.
“We now believe that Monsanto has control over as much as 90 percent of (seed genetics),” said Neil Harl, an agricultural economist at Iowa State University who has studied the seed industry for decades. “This level of control is almost unbelievable. The upshot of that is that it’s tightening Monsanto’s control and makes it possible for them to increase their prices long term. And we’ve seen this happening the last five years, and the end is not in sight.” The U.S. Justice Department is now investigating Monsanto for violation of federal antitrust laws.