Deadly Secrets, Corporate Corruption, and One Man’s Search for Justice
By Carey Gillam
Island Press, March 2021
When global conglomerate Bayer AG paid $63 billion in 2018 to buy Monsanto Company, the deal was seen as a boost to Bayer’s wealth and power. But only two years later, Bayer was forced to agree to pay $11 billion to settle the claims of more than 100,000 cancer victims who alleged their suffering was caused by the use of Monsanto’s flagship herbicide, Roundup. That settlement may never have happened without Lee Johnson.
The Monsanto Papers: Deadly Secrets, Corporate Corruption, and One Man’s Search for Justice (Publication Date: March 2, 2021) tells the inside story of Lee Johnson’s landmark lawsuit against Monsanto after a workplace accident left Lee doused in Monsanto’s herbicide and facing a deadly cancer. Lee was the first to take Monsanto to trial, drawing attention from around the world as his case became one of the most dramatic legal battles in courthouse history.
For Lee, the case was a race against the clock as doctors predicted he wouldn’t survive long enough to take the witness stand. For the eclectic band of ambitious lawyers representing him, taking on Monsanto was a matter of professional pride and personal risk that placed millions of dollars and hard-earned reputations on the line. For observers, Johnson’s battle brought to light decades of deceptive conduct by Monsanto and regulators with worldwide public health implications.
The book not only offers a revelatory look at corporate misdeeds, but also delves into the sometimes controversial tactics employed by mass tort attorneys trying to bring corporations such as Monsanto to justice. At the heart of the story, however, is the searing tale of Lee’s tormented battle to survive long enough to see his day in court.
Gillam’s reporting is based on behind-the-scenes access to Lee and his lawyers, along with more than 80,000 pages of court exhibits and other documents. The Monsanto Papers brings to life both Lee’s ravaging bout with cancer, the risks his legal team took to uncover the truth, and the risk faced by consumers everywhere when corporations put profits over people.
Carey Gillam has spent more than 25 years reporting on corporate America. Her first book, Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science, won the 2018 Rachel Carson Book Award from the Society of Environmental Journalists, and was named an “Outstanding Book of the Year” by the 2018 Independent Publisher Book Awards. Gillam is currently Research Director for the non-profit consumer group U.S. Right to Know.
Commentary from Executive Director, Dr. Michelle Perro:
The Monsanto Papers, in addition to paving the way for millions of victims from pesticide poisoning to seek retribution, Carey Gillam boldly and adeptly tells two stories. Mr. Lee Johnson’s journey is the pivotal story in the biblical trial of a school landscaper harmed by Roundup versus the agricultural giant, Monsanto. However, it is also the tale of how lawyers must step up to do the job where regulators have failed. Profits over people becomes clear as mountains of evidence are revealed in this meticulous read on how we have been deceived regarding the safety of Roundup. This tale is comparable and out of the historical playbooks of neurotoxicity from lead, especially harming our children in our environment as well as the decades-long deception saga by the tobacco industry.