The US department of justice has issued a "civil investigative demand (CID)" requesting information on Monsanto's soybean traits business and has sought confirmation that farmers and seed companies will continue to have access to the first-generation `Roundup Ready' trait beyond its patent expiry in 2014, the company said in a release.
Monsanto's Roundup Ready gene is used in a variety of crops that its licensing agreements would have wide repercussions on the market, reports said.
Roundup Ready, the world's first commercial strain of genetically engineered soybeans, was introduced in 1996. The plants were resistant to the herbicide, allowing farmers to spray Roundup whenever they wanted rather than wait until the soybeans had grown enough to withstand the chemical.
"Monsanto continues to cooperate with the US Department of Justice inquiries, just as we have over the last several months," said Scott Partridge, Monsanto's chief deputy general counsel. "We respect the thorough regulatory process. We believe our business practices are fair, pro-competitive and in compliance with the law," he added.
Monsanto had, in December 2009, confirmed that the Roundup Ready soybeans would remain available after patent expiry.
"The company remains committed to working with the soybean industry, public and private parties alike on this matter, so that the markets served by soybean farmers are not disrupted," it said, adding that information about the transition is available online.
The investigations follow press reports last month about certain contracts showing that Monsanto's business practices squeeze competitors, control smaller seed companies and protect its dominance over the genetically altered crops market.