U.S. vs. Monsanto?

On August 7th, deputy assistant attorney general, antitrust division, Philip Weiser gave a speech in St. Louis, the hometown of Monsanto:
Over the last twenty years, changes in technology and the marketplace have revolutionized agriculture markets, producing some substantial efficiencies as well as concerns about concentration. Notably, farmers today increasingly turn to patented biotechnology that is used to produce seeds resistant to herbicides and insects, producing larger crop yields than ever before. At the same time, this technological revolution and accompanying market developments have facilitated the emergence of large firms that produce these products, along with challenges for new firms to enter this market.

The Antitrust Division recently evaluated a series of mergers in the agriculture industry, obtaining relief to remedy identified anticompetitive concerns. In the market for cottonseeds, for example, the Antitrust Division required Monsanto and Delta & Pine Land to divest a significant seed company, multiple cottonseed lines, and other valuable assets before allowing them to proceed with their merger. Also, because DPL had had a license allowing it to “stack” a rival’s trait with a Monsanto trait, Monsanto was also required to amend certain terms in its current trait license agreements with other cottonseed companies to allow them, without penalty, to stack non-Monsanto traits with Monsanto traits. As a result, producers of genetically modified traits gained greater ability to work with these seed companies.(11) Going forward, the Division will continue to examine developments in the seed industry.

…For many farmers and consumer advocates, we understand that there are concerns regarding the levels of concentration in the seed industry — particularly for corn and soybeans. In studying this market, we will evaluate the emerging industry structure, explore whether new entrants are able to introduce innovations, and examine any practices that potentially threaten competition.

It’s easy to read that as a warning to Monsanto that DoJ has ruled before and may again. We’ll see if it’s all talk or if any action follows.