Antitrust Update
By Aruna Viswanatha | April 14, 2010 7:40 am

New antitrust rules for meat industry

The Associated Press reports on new rules to regulate competition in the meat industry expected this spring from the Department of Agriculture. “The new rules will govern how meatpackers buy their cattle on an open market and what demands poultry companies can make on the independent contractors who raise their chickens,” according to the news service. The new rules were required by the 2008 farm bill, driven by concerns that large processors are pushing down the prices farmers are paid for their cattle and poultry.

Are genetically engineered seeds backfiring?

Also on the agriculture front, a new study found that the benefits of genetically modified seeds outweighed their higher prices, but that overuse of the herbicide-resistant seeds is starting to backfire. Monsanto owns patents on much of the technology that undergirds herbicide resistance and is under antitrust scrutiny for its uses of those patents.

Oracle updates My SQL

On Tuesday, Oracle released a new version of the open source software MySQL, which it acquired for $7.4 billion from Sun Microsystems last year. Whether Oracle would support MySQL was at the heart of European concerns about the deal. Brussels-based antitrust regulators thought MySQL’s lighter databases could, over time, develop into a competitive threat to Oracle’s heavier products. The Justice Department disagreed, and the dispute spilled into public view. Oracle’s message Tuesday, paraphrased by the Wall Street Journal: we told you we’d keep working on it.

The E.U. take on net neutrality

The European antitrust chief who oversaw the Oracle review, Neelie Kroes, is now the European Commission’s commissioner for the digital agenda. In that capacity on Tuesday, she talked about the net neutrality discussion in Europe, per tech Web site Ars Technica. Internet service providers are forced to share lines in Europe, which makes the industry a more competitive one there, she said. She wasn’t sure regulators needed to get involved:

“There are many ways to manage traffic: by improving infrastructure, adding tolls, creating junctions or roundabouts to improve bottlenecks. But creating new rules and crowding the street with signs does not automatically help the traffic to flow. Indeed, putting a police officer at a busy corner can often deliver the slowest traffic of all,” she said.

“So, I will not be someone who comes up with a solution first and then looks for a problem to attach it to. I am not a police officer in search of a busy corner.”

Read her full statement here.

Simon-General Growth deal on the rocks

It looks like Simon-General Growth talks may be dead. A deal, which would combine the largest shopping mall operators, is on the rocks after Simon concluded that General Growth’s antitrust counsel wasn’t dealing in “good faith,” according to the REIT Newshound newsletter.

Broadcasters’ mobile plan

Broadcasters are teaming up for a new mobile venture, according to the L.A. Times, and have had lawyers babysit the negotiations to make sure the plan doesn’t violate antitrust laws. Cox Media Group’s president told the paper: “We have vetted it extremely well,” he said, adding that the group has not “had one conversation without lawyers in the room.”

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