Dow Jones Business News
Federal Antitrust Probe Includes Monsanto's Roundup
Friday March 14, 9:36 am ET

NEW YORK -- Monsanto Co. (NYSE:MON - News) is under investigation by the Justice Department as part of a probe into possible antitrust practices in the herbicide industry.

The company said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (News - Websites) that the government has requested information on its glyphosate business, which includes Monsanto's Roundup weed killer.

The company said it's coopering with the inquiry. Company representatives weren't immediately available to comment.

Roundup, long a cash cow for the company, has faced increasing pressures in recent years since losing U.S. patent protection in 2000. Rivals responded by cutting prices on competing herbicides. In the fourth quarter, competition and poor weather pressured Roundup sales and pricing in the U.S. Sales of the product also were hurt by changes in the way the company conducted business in Latin America as it looked to reduce the risk of doing business in the region by reducing inventories and tightening credit policies. The company said last month that pricing pressures for Roundup would likely continue.

In December, Monsanto and Chemical Products Technologies as well as other defendants settled a legal dispute that involved the use of glyphosate. In November 2001, Monsanto filed a patent-infringement suit against Chemical Products contending that the company imported and sold generic glyphosate that Monsanto already marketed as Roundup Ready. Chemical Products then sued Monsanto for engaging in anticompetitive efforts to prevent the company from selling a generic version called ClearOut.

-Tim Paradis; Dow Jones Newswires; 201-938-5400