The Department of Justice has announced that Monsanto Co. is no longer the target of an antitrust investigation, saying it will halt its probe into the seed industry and will not take action against the Creve Coeur-based biotechnology giant.
The agency launched an investigation into possible anti-competitive practices in the seed industry in 2010, following claims by a Monsanto rival, DuPont, that the company had developed a monopoly that was limiting others from using its now ubiquitous Roundup Ready technology.
Roundup Ready soybeans hit the market in 1996 and the technology — which enables genetically engineered plants to withstand applications of the herbicide, Roundup — has become the dominant player in the market.
Monsanto licenses the technology to dozens of seed companies, who then implant it in their seeds. The Roundup Ready trait is now in over 90 percent of the soybeans grown in the country.
“We’re pleased that the Justice Department has closed its inquiry and this issue is now behind us,” David Snively, Monsanto’s general counsel, said in a statement. “Our business is focused on delivering new product innovations to farmers each and every year, and we remain committed to developing the products that deliver results for them.”
Monsanto announced late Friday that it had received written notice from the Justice Department saying the investigation had ended.
The Justice Department said “marketplace developments” affected its decision to stop the investigation but declined to elaborate on what that meant.
“The Antitrust Division will continue to monitor the seed industry closely,” a spokesperson said.
In 2010, the department held a series of workshops around the country, focusing on concentration in the agriculture industry, including the seed business. In January of that year, the agency requested information from Monsanto and other seed companies, indicating a formal investigation.
DuPont, and its Pioneer Hi-Bred seed division, had accused Monsanto of monopolizing the Roundup Ready soybean trait by preventing companies from combining their own technologies with Roundup Ready genes.
DuPont also accused Monsanto of trying to get seed companies to switch to a new generation of Roundup Ready soybeans before the patent on the existing generation lapses in 2014.
Monsanto will face DuPont in court this coming October to combat a suit, filed by DuPont in 2009, alleging that Monsanto violated antitrust laws.
“The investigation by DOJ is separate from the antitrust claims DuPont has brought against Monsanto and is not an indication or a decision that Monsanto has not violated antitrust laws,” DuPont spokesman, Daniel A. Turner said in a statement Monday.