(28 August - Cropchoice Opinion) -- Quick: Where do expect a higher standard of corporate citizenship - Your local seed company or a big international banking conglomerate?
If you picked the seed company, you're not alone in doubting megabanks. But if you plant varieties from Mississippi-based DeltaPine, you might be in for a rude shock. The rest of the world, even bankers, are running circles around DeltaPine's backwards biotech policies.
Even if you don't plant cotton (or the company's soybeans), you will probably recall that DeltaPine is the home of Terminator Technology, the ugliest kind of agbiotech yet invented. Terminator is a GMO that prevents farmers from saving seeds by making the second generation sterile. Try to replant and nothing sprouts. It's a way to make more money and force farmers to buy more seed. The technology has been rejected worldwide - even Monsanto swore it off - but DeltaPine is still working on it and will sell Terminator cotton (and other crops).
But the policy isn't winning DeltaPine friends. A big player on Wall Street now says it won't fund any Terminator research, pushing DeltaPine further out on a limb as the only real backer of the anti-farmer technology.
Last week, Dutch-based Rabobank - which is the world's biggest agricultural lender - adopted an ethical code that says that it will not lend to companies that are developing Terminator. A bank position paper says that "The monopoly formation among biotechnological firms and the development of sterile seed by these firms pose threats" to farmers and that "primary producers in the agricultural and horticultural sectors... must be allowed to use seeds they have grown themselves."
It's not often that bankers intervene to improve the ethics of a technology industry. But DeltaPine, which also sells Paymaster and Sure-Grow seed, is happy to push off a technology on American farmers that even venture capitalists find repugnant. And the company, which says its strength is its focus on Southern farmers and personal service, will do it with a down home country boy grin.
DeltaPine will keep smiling all the way to the bank. The question is whether or not cotton farmers will stick up for their rights.