2.Monsanto Wields Monopoly Power to Jack Up Corn Seed Prices
--- 1.Group focuses ire on Monsanto
By Matt Courter
Olney Daily Mail, July 2 2009 http://www.olneydailymail.com/news/x931217118/Group-focuses-ire-on-Monsanto
Olney, Ill. - The Organization for Competitive Markets will hold its annual conference on August 7 in St. Louis to discuss what it sees as unfairness between farmers and ranchers and the corporations with whom they do business.
OCM Executive Director Fred Stokes, of Mississippi, said the group advocates fairness for farmers and ranchers, who he said have been systematically "short-changed" for a long time.
He said farmers and ranchers have to buy from monopolies, singling out Monsanto in particular, who "gouge" their customers. He said they then have to sell to these large companies based on their corporate edicts.
"Family agriculture is fading away," Stokes said.
He said the seed industry is of particular concern.
Stokes said Monsanto owns 90 percent of the genetically traded seed business.
Monsanto representative John Combest said the 90-percent figure is misleading because this includes competitors to whom Monsanto has sold its traits.
"Their prices are out of line," Stokes said, adding that the excess price comes out of the “bottom line" of the farmer.
According to written information from OCM, the group believes Monsanto uses an exclusive licensing agreement strategy to harm local competition. The agreements, the group states, likely restrain independent seed companies from offering competitive traits from other companies. OCM claims the practice "solidifies and extends Monsanto's market power, quashes innovation by other companies, and increases seed prices for crop farmers."
In a written statement, Steve's Seed Conditioning owner Steve Hixon, of Claremont, addressed why he believes the conference is important.
"Anti-competitive behavior in the seed industry has manipulated a complete financial engine and removes massive amounts of economic wealth from the public's access,” he stated, also urging people to attend the conference and express their concerns.
Stokes said the company also uses aggressive methods against people.
"They molest people," he said. "They're brutes."
Stokes said the company sues "totally innocent people," and use intimidation so people will not infringe on their patent rights.
Stokes call Monsanto the "world's most hated corporation," claiming it has done egregious things in foreign countries. "They have a pretty sordid history," he said.
Combest said he would direct people to the company's website, www.monsanto.com, to see the company's responses to claims such as these and to see its information on patent issues.
An article in the news and media "for the record" section of the site concerning lawsuits against farmers states, "When farmers purchase a patented seed variety, they sign an agreement that they will not save and replant seeds produced from the seed they buy from us.
"A very small percentage of farmers do not honor this agreement...Where we do find violations, we are able to settle most of these cases without ever going to trial...Sometimes however, we are forced to resort to lawsuits. This is a relatively rare circumstance, with about 120 lawsuits having been filed within the last decade."
An article concerning claims that failure of its Bollgard cotton seed products has caused farmers in India to commit suicide states, "The reality is that that the tragic phenomena of farmer suicides in India began long before the introduction of Bollgard in 2002."
"In fact, a 2004 survey of cotton farmers in India by the IMRB International showed a 118 percent increase in profit for farmers planting Bollgard over traditional cotton. The same survey showed a 64 percent increase in yield and a 25 percent reduction in pesticide costs."
Stokes said OCM believes corporations should be good citizens and that Monsanto needs to change its behavior.
"We just want a straight game," he said.
According to OCM, the group is also supporting state attorneys general who are participating in a multi-state investigation relating to alleged violations of U.S. antitrust and trade practice laws in the seed industry, as well as encourage other attorneys general to join the investigation. A lawsuit may follow the investigation if they identify a violation of state or federal antitrust laws.
Combest said the company's traits are successful with farmers because they have been shown to work. He said the traits are popular with large and small customers.
He also said there is a great deal of competition in the seed market and that the company licenses its traits to competitors.
The conference will be held at The Westin St. Louis, 811 Spruce Street, St. Louis, Mo.
It is entitled, "Confronting the Threats to Market Competition." According to information from the group, it will focus on "market concentration and the resulting anti-competitive practices that have farmers and ranchers paying too much for their inputs and getting too little for their production. This is our chance to make our case to people who can make a difference."
J. Dudley Butler, Administrator of USDA Grain Inspection and Packers and Stockyards Administration and Phil Weiser, Deputy to Christine Varney, Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust will be part of the conference, as will other officials.
For more information, visit the group’s website at www.competitivemarkets.com.
, regarding additional conference information.
--- 2.During a world food crisis, Monsanto just raised the price of its corn seed $100 a bag
Organization for Competitive Markets, July 22 2008 http://www.opednews.com/articles/During-a-world-food-cris...
Lincoln, NE - The Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) says Monsanto's market power is driving up seed prices and devastating farmers and their communities. OCM sent a letter explaining the economic implications of Monsanto's seed prices on rural communities to 23 state attorneys general today. The organization continues to encourage several state attorneys general to expand their antitrust investigation into Monsanto's suspected anticompetitive practices in the U.S. seed industry
"Monsanto's market power has been quietly accruing over several years and has now begun materially impacting price," said Keith Mudd, OCM's board president. "The lack of competition and innovation in the marketplace has reduced farmers' choices and enabled Monsanto to raise prices unencumbered."
Monsanto executives recently told DTN that they expect to raise the price of some seed corn varieties to $300. The Monsanto executives consider themselves only restrained by the "red-face test." "There is no competitive restraint to this price hike," said Mudd.
OCM points to a specific quote from the DTN article:
Even the list price on seed corn will topple the $300 per bag barrier starting this fall, up about $95 to $100 per bag, or 35 percent on average, according to Monsanto officials who met with DTN and Progressive Farmer editors this week. For 2009, 76 percent of the company's corn sales will be triple stack, 'so we think we can get the pricing right to show farmers the benefits,' John Jansen, Monsanto's corn traits lead. 'We can pass the red-faced test from the Panhandle of Texas to McLean County, Ill.'
"A $100 price increase is a tremendous drain on rural America," said Fred Stokes, OCM's executive director. "Let's say a farmer in Iowa who farms 1,000 acres plants one of these expensive corn varieties next year. The gross increased cost is more than $40,000. Yet there's no scientific basis to justify this price hike. How can we let companies get away with this?" continued Stokes.
The lack of innovation and choice in the seed industry, as well as increased prices, will only get worse over time. "If and when the ethanol boom subsides, Monsanto will not lower its prices, farmers will be forced into bankruptcy, and the lack of an effective remedy for antitrust in crop seed will be a substantial cause," added Stokes.
OCM is a nonprofit organization working for open and competitive markets and fair trade for American food producers, consumers and rural communities. OCM's Seed Concentration Project aims to foster competition, innovation and choice in the crop seed industry.
Organization for Competitive Markets P.O. Box 6486 Lincoln, NE 68506 www.competitivemarkets.com