Author: Bartow J. Elmore
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Summary: This was an incredible look at how the history of a powerful corporation shaped the world we live in today.
I recently read The Monsanto Papers, a book that primarily focused on the first court case to result in a judgement against Monsanto for selling the carcinogenic herbicide RoundUp. This broader history of Monsanto was a very complementary read. It takes a bigger picture look at the history of the company. We follow the story of Monsanto from founding to acquisition by Bayer. In-between, there’s a whole bunch of making chemicals that are useful, but harmful to both humans and the environment. Also lots of shady behavior trying to conceal the harmful bits.
Unsurprisingly, this has many of the same strengths as The Monsanto Papers. It was at least as well written, featuring many individuals who ran Monsanto, worked at Monsanto, or were harmed by Monsanto. These people stories make it easy to get invested in Monsanto’s history. The story does also have a true crime element. We learn about several court cases brought against Monsanto following their attempts to hide the harm caused by their products. Unlike in The Monsanto Papers, this isn’t a victory lap. The court cases are a mixed bag, with plaintiffs winning some cases and losing others. What was common to both books is that it’s clear our court system isn’t set up to properly punish corporations or compensate people they harm. Even when found guilty of tremendous harm, Monsanto had to pay amounts that were negligible for the company. When divided among plaintiffs, this translated to amounts that probably weren’t life-changing for the plaintiffs either.
Something I enjoyed about this book slightly more than The Monsanto Papers was the amount of context the book provided. It was fascinating to see how Monsanto evolved with current events and regulation. It was horrifying to see that the value of profit above all else was baked into the company’s strategy from the start. The personal details were less the focus as a result, but I thought it was a good trade-off. The balance of the different elements here was perfect for me. If you’re only going to pick up this or The Monsanto Papers, personally I’d pick this one, but I do highly recommend both.