EXCLUSIVE: Monsanto chief accuses rival DuPont of deceit

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EXCLUSIVE:

The chairman of agribusiness giant Monsanto demanded Monday that his counterpart at DuPont - his firm’s leading competitor in the seed business - appoint a special committee to investigate what he said was a pattern of covert attacks on Monsanto’s business practices by DuPont.

Hugh Grant, chairman of Monsanto Co., accused DuPont of using third parties to attack Monsanto, activities which he said “were misleading to the public and a serious breach of business ethics far beyond honest competitor behavior.”

He made the request for an investigation by a committee of DuPont’s independent directors in a letter to Charles O. Holliday Jr., chairman of E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co.

He accused DuPont of being “dishonest, disingenuous and downright deceitful.”

An attorney for Monsanto said the tactics used against his company included forged letters to Congress, misinformation, attempts to improperly influence public officials and support for a special interest group which opposed Monsanto.

A DuPont spokesman said the company had not received the letter.

“We fully expect Monsanto to continue the campaign of diversion for as long as they feel things are not going their way on the merits,” said Anthony Farina.

He said DuPont is not alone in its concern that Monsanto’s business practices are reducing competition in agriculture.

“DuPont along with other companies, farmers, nonprofit groups and government authorities are all active participants in the important public discussion about competition in agriculture,” said Mr. Farina.

The Monsanto letter is the latest skirmish in a battle between Monsanto and DuPont for control of the seed business.

In 2006 and 2007, DuPont tried unsuccessfully to block Monsanto from buying the nation’s largest cotton seed supplier, Delta & Pine Land Co.

In May, Monsanto filed a lawsuit against DuPont for patent infringement and DuPont countersued, accusing Monsanto of being anti-competitive.

“Our response to Monsanto’s latest lawsuit speaks for itself,” said Mr. Farina. “It makes clear why Monsanto’s business practices are illegal and why Monsanto’s anti-competitive business practices hurt farmers, consumers and independent seed companies. We look forward to having these issues decided in court, where Monsanto initiated this.”

Mr. Farina accused Monsanto of running “a very aggressive and misleading campaign” against DuPont since the lawsuit and that DuPont wanted “to set the record straight.”

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