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India's Competition Authorities Investigate Monsanto

Monsanto's Indian joint venture has come under fire anew for allegedly anti-competitive behavior.

India's Competition Commission opened investigations this week into allegations that Monsanto and its partner Mahyco abused their dominant positions as suppliers of genetically modified cotton seeds to insert unfair conditions into sub-licensing agreements with seed companies. The claims were brought by three Indian seed companies, Kaveri Seeds, Ajeet Seeds and Ankur Seeds. The decision to investigate signifies that the seed companies have established a prima facie case for violation of India's Competition Act.

The latest allegations are substantially similar to claims brought in February by several seed companies and the Indian Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers accusing Monsanto's venture of charging excessive prices for its licenses.

The U.S.-based agro-chemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation has been embroiled in litigation - - and controversy - - for years over its competitive practices in India. Litigation about its seed prices in the country started over a decade ago. On more than one occasion, the company has been ordered by courts or the Indian government to slash the royalties it collects on the seeds. Most recently, the Indian government announced in March that it would institute a "sharp, mandatory cut" in Monsanto's fees - - prompting Monsanto to bring suit and threaten to pull out of the country. Some news outlets and activists have even tied the high rate of farmer suicides in India to Monsanto's alleged monopolistic behavior.

Monsanto's seeds are used in more than 90 percent of Indian's cotton cultivation.