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Thirty Cabbages: Greening the agricultural 'Life Science' industry

Bill Vorley

Report/paper, 20 pages

In recent years, the world's largest chemical companies' have increasingly been searching for new ways of doing business. As a result, part of the chemical pesticide industry has evolved from making chemicals to the so called 'Life Science' industry, creating packaged seed-gene and seed-gene-chemical products. These new ways of doing business have not, however, been accompanied by the 'far reaching shifts in corporate attitudes' necessary for making progress towards sustainable development, which the Business Council for Sustainable Development called for in the lead-up to the 1992 Rio 'Earth Summit'. Justification for the development of genetic manipulation and the introduction of completely novel genetics into the food chain reveal exactly the same mindset as that which characterised the pesticide era. Yet it is increasingly clear that it makes poor business sense for these companies not to make the dramatic shifts called for.
The paper emphasises that business opportunities for such companies in a more regenerative, less extractive agriculture, can be identified by an alliance between industry and the sustainable agriculture movement which would redefine a company's core competence, from chemistry to agriculture, or even to ecosystem management. It concludes with suggestions for how this alliance could evolve, giving examples of where such approaches are already being tried.

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