For decades, the company once known as Monsanto has dominated U.S. agriculture. Famous for its Roundup Ready system—which consists of the herbicide Roundup, made with glyphosate, and seeds genetically modified to resist it—the global corporation became the largest seller of seeds in the world by the 1990s. Fast forward nearly 30 years, and Bayer, the German pharmaceutical company that bought Monsanto in 2018, now faces a number of high-profile lawsuits related to glyphosate’s cancer-causing potential as well as the failures of the Roundup system.
In his new book Seed Money: Monsanto’s Past and Our Food Future, historian Bartow J. Elmore uncovers Monsanto’s record of producing not only Roundup, but also many of the chemicals that make up our modern world: the polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in electrical equipment, the defoliants in home-garden herbicides and the Agent Orange used for chemical warfare during the Vietnam War, and the herbicide dicamba.
Elmore traces the company’s record of misleading regulators and the public about the dangers of such chemicals to human health and the environment and explains how the chemicals themselves have become deeply ingrained in our economy and agricultural system for the foreseeable future.