A thorough examination of industrial chemicals in our food chain by an acclaimed French journalist and documentary filmmaker.
In this companion book to her documentary of the same name, Robin (The World According to Monsanto, 2010) argues that the destructive effects of poorly studied and regulated industrial chemicals have been greater than their benefits. She is clear about her bias from the beginning: Growing up in a farm family, she is personally outraged by what she argues are the preventable diseases, deformities and deaths brought about by the chemical industry's prioritization of profit over public health. However, she plunges deep into the scientific, historical and political details of these issues, and readers who want to argue with her conclusions have their work cut out for them. Robin builds her arguments methodically and reinforces them with exhaustive evidence that she gathered during two years of international research, including personal interviews, historical and archival documents, and rigorous medical studies. A few of the topics discussed include the origins of the chemical industry in chemical warfare; its history of "strategizing how to control and manipulate research on the toxicity of its products, while waging a merciless war on all the scientists wishing to maintain their independence in the name of the defense of public health”; the modern epidemic of cancers and other diseases that exploded at the end of the 19th century; the weaknesses of epidemiological studies; the idea of acceptable daily intake; case studies of specific chemicals; and the "cocktail effect." There are several painful stories of poisoning victims’ struggles for recognition and compensation, which serve to break up and humanize the flood of technical information. In her conclusion, Robin calls for a new precautionary approach to approving chemicals that errs on the side of protecting people rather than industry.
For readers with a strong interest in environmental and public health and food safety policy, this may be one of the most important books of the year.