Investigative Journalist’s New Book Chronicles The Trial & Tribulation Of Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, The First Plaintiff To Successfully Sue Monsanto

Consumer Goods

Investigative journalist, Carey Gillam’s new book, The Monsanto Papers: Deadly Secrets, Corporate Corruption, and One Man’s Search for Justice releases tomorrow (by Island Press), and centers around Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, a former groundskeeper from the Bay Area who accidentally doused himself with Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicidal product, Ranger Pro. Johnson developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), a rare type of cancer that attacks the body’s lymph nodes. 

Gillam, who previously wrote 2017’s Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science, a quasi-prequel to The Monsanto Papers, told Modern Farmer that she didn’t expect Johnson to still be alive as of tomorrow’s book release. 

“I believed wholeheartedly that the last chapter would be Lee’s funeral,” Gillam told Modern Farmer. 

Johnson was diagnosed with NHL six and a half years ago. In 2018, a jury awarded Johnson $289 million in damages but that reward was reduced twice, eventually to $20.5 million. Johnson was paid last year, but he estimates that after paying taxes and legal fees, he walked away with approximately half that amount. 

Despite having been ravaged by cancer throughout his body, Gillam told Modern Farmer that Johnson maintains a positive outlook. “[H]e’s not living a good, happy life,” she said. “But he’s there with his boys and he’s taking care of his family,” added Gillam, who is research director of US Right To Know, a non-profit investigative group that focuses on consumer protection issues.

Gillam’s former book covered Monsanto’s efforts to manipulate the scientific record about glyphosate, whereas the new one narrows in on Johnson’s seemingly Herculean effort to win at trial against the crop- and seed-science monolith, which was acquired by Bayer AG for $63 billion, one month before  Johnson’s trial started. (Johnson’s trial ended one month later, on August 10, 2018.)

The Monsanto Papers also takes readers into the offices of Johnson’s legal team as they plan out his case and, ultimately, into the courtroom for the jury’s verdict. 

“I tried to write the book with a general-audience appeal so that people who are turned off by pesticides and glyphosate—the idea of, you know, having to read a very science-y book—would be drawn into one man’s story of suffering from cancer,” Gillam told

Still, the book does delve into topics that may cause the reader’s eyes to glaze over, such as the legal machinations of mass tort litigation. In comparison to criminal law, mass tort litigation is far less sexier.  

After Gillam’s first book on Monsanto was published, the author said that Monsanto built a step-by-step action plan to undermine her credibility and reporting. According to, this strategy was detailed in company documents Gillam obtained after Whitewash was published. 

Gillam said she believes Bayer, in comparison to Monsanto, has acted more professionally; the company has not engaged in either “skullduggery or third-party attacks,” Gillam told The author added that she hopes to never have to write a book about Monsanto again.

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