West Virginia Sues Monsanto in Roundup Soybean Probe

Monsanto Co., the world’s largest seed company, was sued by West Virginia for allegedly refusing to cooperate with the state attorney general’s investigation of the sale of soybeans that can withstand Roundup weed killer.

West Virginia is looking into whether claims Monsanto makes about its Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans are supported by test results. Second-generation Roundup Ready 2 Yield plants are priced significantly higher than the first-generation seeds, Attorney General Darrell McGraw said today in a statement.

In its civil enforcement action, the state is seeking an order barring Monsanto from selling products in West Virginia until it complies with its subpoena.

“I want to ensure there is a fair marketplace for West Virginia farmers,” McGraw said. “They need to know if it is worth extra money to buy new products that may not live up to the hype.”

St. Louis-based Monsanto said the attorney general’s office won’t agree to a protective order related to the confidential intellectual property information. The information sought is similar to other legal claims that are covered by a protective order, the company said.

“Agriculture is our only business at Monsanto, and we are committed to the success of farmers,” the company said in an e-mailed statement. “That’s why we introduce new products only after we have thoroughly tested them and have the full confidence -- backed by data -- that they will deliver on farm.”

18,000 Acres

West Virginia grew about 18,000 acres of the nation’s 77.5 million acres of soybeans last year, making it the smallest soybean-growing state tracked by the U.S. Agriculture Department.

Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybean seed will cost about $5 an acre more than the first-generation herbicide-resistant product introduced in 1996, the company said in August. That’s a 75 percent reduction versus a premium of at least $20 that Monsanto charged this year. About $10 of the reduction comes from making seed treatments optional.

Monsanto today said its Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans are yielding 3 bushels an acre more than the original soybean engineered to withstand applications of Roundup herbicide. Roundup Ready 2 soybeans struggled to meet a forecasted yield advantage of 7 percent to 11 percent last year when the seeds first became available.

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