Pullen Seeds and Soil of Sac City Iowa leads a group filing a class-action lawsuit against Monsanto in federal court this week. In Pullen Seeds and Soil v. Monsanto Company, plaintiffs allege Monsanto's Roundup products continue to have a monopoly over the glyphosate herbicide market years after the Roundup patent expired in 2000, violating the Sherman Antitrust Act.
"Roundup has maintained an 80% (or more) market share of all the glyphosate herbicides sold in the United States despite Monsanto's charging dealers 300% to 400% more for brand-name Roundup than the price charged by generic competitors," the suit claims.
The suit claims that Monsanto limited sales of Roundup's generic form and acquired seed companies that were developing seeds to be used with non-glyphosate herbicide, eliminating the potential competition to Roundup. Although not an uncommon system in the seed industry, the practice of "bundling" seed with products to be used on it - in this case, Monsanto's sale of Roundup herbicide and seeds that could not be used with herbicides other than Roundup - may become a crucial part of the Pullen case.
Monsanto spokesman Andrew Burchett points out that the plaintiffs' arguments have been taken up in court before. "This complaint appears to recycle old allegations regarding our marketing and pricing of glyphosate -- complaints that DuPont and others previously have made in lawsuits and which were the subject of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice that was closed in 2004 with no enforcement action.
"There are dozens of different brands and formulations of glyphosate available from more than 30 different companies in the United States," Burchett adds. "This is far more competition than exists with regard to any other agricultural chemical."
The plaintiff class will seek damages for overcharges paid by Pullen and others as a result of Monsanto's alleged glyphosate monopoly, says Roger McEowen, Iowa State University ag law specialist. McEowen estimates the case could last as long as 10 years.