While we were celebrating Thanksgiving, Monsanto had much to be thankful for, too. Last month, the Department of Justice quietly scrapped an investigation begun in January 2010 into anticompetitive practices in the American seed market that Monsanto dominates like an extra-mean, extra-genetically-modified Hulk. Today, Hulk “pleased.”

Tom Philpott at Mother Jones reports:

The DOJ didn’t even see fit to mark the investigation’s end with a press release. News of it emerged from a brief item Monsanto itself issued the Friday before Thanksgiving, declaring it had “received written notification” from the DOJ antitrust division that it had ended its investigation “without taking any enforcement action.”

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A DOJ spokesperson confirmed to me that the agency had “closed its investigation into possible anticompetitive practices in the seed industry,” but would divulge no details. “In making its decision, the Antitrust Division took into account marketplace developments that occurred during the pendency of the investigation,” she stated via email. I asked what precisely those “marketplace developments” were. “I don’t have anything else for you,” she replied. Monsanto, too, is being tight-lipped — a company spokesperson said the company had no statement to make beyond the above-linked press release.

Monsanto’s proprietary traits end up in 98 percent of genetically modified soybeans and 79 percent of GM corn grown stateside. Along with other toxic seed avengers DuPont, Syngenta, and Dow, Monsanto owns more than 80 percent of the seed market.

We may not know why the DOJ abandoned its investigation, but we know it probably shouldn’t have.

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[O]ne sign of an uncompetitive industry is the ability to raise prices at will, unimpeded by price pressure from rivals. It’s impossible to say, without more information, if the GMO giants have done that — but prices have risen briskly over the past decade. In her … 2009 paper, the American Antitrust Institute’s [Vice President Diana] Moss points out that in truly competitive markets, “technologies that enjoy widespread and rapid adoption” — like GM seeds — “typically experience precipitous declines” in price. But between 2000 and 2008, Moss writes, “real seed costs [for farmers] increased by an average annual rate of five percent for corn, almost 11 percent for cotton, and seven percent for soybeans.”


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