Questions Linger About Why U.S. Justice Officials Dropped Their Probe Into Monsanto’s Seed Business

Justice officials ended their antitrust investigation of Monsanto despite its vast influence. In the seed business, the seeds themselves often are equivalent to computer hardware and their genetically modified traits are like software. According to its rival, DuPont, Monsanto’s traits end up in 98 percent of the genetically modified soybeans grown in the U.S. and 79 percent of the corn. Despite that concentration of economic power, neither federal officials nor Monsanto has provided details on why the government dropped its investigation last month. “To have a two-year investigation and close it without a peep in our view does a disservice,” said a researcher at the American Antitrust Institute. Mother Jones

Chemicals in tap water may be linked to food allergies, study suggests. People with higher urine levels of dichlorophenol chemicals, used in pesticides and to purify drinking water, were more likely to have food allergies, researchers at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology found. The compounds kill bacteria and could, theoretically, kill beneficial bacteria in the human digestive system, provoking allergies. The rate of food allergies among young children and teens increased 18 percent between 1997 and 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found. Separately, another study found exposure to low doses of organophosphate pesticides may cause learning and memory problems. The TelegraphABC News

California farmers and environmentalists wage legal fights against state drilling policy. With oil prices booming and energy companies eager to develop new wells, the state has granted oil companies permission to drill on farms without first assessing possible environmental harm, as called for under the California Environmental Quality Act. The legal exemptions are what Gov. Jerry Brown sought late in 2011 when he replaced two top Conservation Department officials with appointees who agreed to ease environmental restrictions on energy companies. Within months, the department granted oil companies 19 exemptions, a six-fold increase from the year before. But in Kern County, California’s richest oil county, farmers pushed back. Los Angeles Times

Fines for workplace safety violations soar under the Obama administration. An analysis by Compliance and Safety, a Delaware-based marketer and publisher of workplace safety training materials, showed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration imposed fines of $261.6 million in 2011. That was up from $154.1 million in the last year of the administration of President George W. Bush.  According to the analysis, the last major surge in OSHA fines came during the four-year administration of Bush’s father, which ended in 1992. During that term, OSHA averaged $164 million in fines annually, up from $32 million a year during President Ronald Reagan’s two terms. All the figures were adusted for inflation and expressed in 2011 dollars. Compliance and Safety

Walmart named in lawsuit by warehouse workers alleging fraudulent pay practices. The giant retailer was added as a defendant in a suit that, as FairWarning reported in March, accused the owner of a Mira Loma, Calif., warehouse, Schneider National Inc., and two temporary staffing agencies of cheating contract workers out of the minimum wage. An amended complaint filed by the plaintiffs contends that Walmart “bears ultimate responsibility for the violations of state and federal law” affecting 1,800 warehouse workers, a charge the company denies. The two temporary staffing firms, Premier Warehousing Services and Impact Logistics, previously agreed to pay $450,000 in fines and back wages to settle state charges about pay practices. The Center for Public Integrity and The Center for Investigative ReportingLos Angeles Times 

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein, Lilly Fowler and Bridget Huber

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