Monsanto Faces West Virginia Probe Over Roundup Ready 2 Soybean Seed Claims

Monsanto Co. is facing <"">consumer fraud allegations for claiming that the latest version of its genetically modified soybean seeds could produce higher yields for farmers. West Virginia’s attorney general has accused Monsanto of violating the state’s Consumer Credit and Protection Act in making the claims.

The new Monsanto seed is called Roundup Ready 2. According to The Wall Street Journal, Roundup Ready soybeans are the most popular type of genetically modified seed planted in the U.S. They are designed to survive exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, making it possible for farmers to spray weedkiller directly on fields without damaging their crop.

According to a Bloomberg report, Monsanto last year began shifting growers to the new seeds by promising a 7 percent to 11 percent bigger harvest compared with the original Roundup Ready soybean seeds. The original version loses patent protection in 2014.

Roundup Ready 2 soybeans were planted on 1.5 million acres last year and cost growers $74 an acre, 42 percent more than the older product, Bloomberg said.

But according to West Virginia Attorney General Darrell V. McGraw, Iowa State University, Pennsylvania State University, a farmer group and investment researcher OTR Global found the latest seeds failed to deliver what Monsanto promised.

According to The Wall Street Journal, West Virginia’s Consumer Credit and Protection Act prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce…” Farmers in the state relied on Monsanto’s promise of a higher yield when they chose to purchase the more expensive Roundup Ready 2 seeds, McGraw said.

According to a letter McGraw sent to Monsanto last month, government surveys show the yield on soybean farms in West Virginia was 41 bushels an acre in 2009, the same as in 2008, the Journal said. McGraw offered Monsanto a chance to meet with state officials before he begins litigation.

“My office is concerned that West Virginia farmers are paying much higher prices for soybeans with the Roundup Ready 2 trait when the yields do not live up to the claims and do not justify the increased prices,” McGraw wrote.

The letter warns that if Monsanto’s yield claims cannot be substantiated, it is violating West Virginia consumer protection laws and is subject to “injunctive relief, restitution and disgorgement, as well as civil penalties.”

According to a Reuters report, West Virginia is one of several states looking into Monsanto’s seed marketing. The release last year of Roundup Ready 2 soybean seeds has attracted particular attention.

The U.S. Justice Department is also looking at Monsanto’s practices, amid allegations by competitors and others of unfair pricing and antitrust violations, Reuters said.

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