The toxicity of pesticides to the environment and humans is often framed as an unfortunate effect of their benefits to agricultural production. In Economic Poisoning, Adam M. Romero upends this narrative and provides a fascinating new history of pesticides in American industrial agriculture prior to World War II. Through impeccable archival research, Romero reveals the ways in which late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American agriculture, especially in California, functioned less as a market for novel pest-killing chemical products and more as a sink for the accumulating toxic wastes of mining, oil production, and chemical manufacturing. Connecting farming ecosystems to technology and the economy, Romero provides an intriguing reconceptualization of pesticides that forces readers to rethink assumptions about food, industry, and the relationship between human and nonhuman environments.
List of Illustrations
1. Arsenic and Old Waste
2. Commercializing Chemical Warfare
3. Manufacturing Petrotoxicity
4. Public-Private Partnerships
5. From Oil Well to Farm
Adam M. Romero is Assistant Professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington Bothell.
"Economic Poisoning turns our perspective on agricultural chemicals upside down."
– Evan Hepler-Smith, Assistant Professor of History, Duke University
"In this fantastic book, Adam Romero reveals stories about pesticides never told before, most notably the profound imbrication of industrial waste production and chemicals that could kill anything that interfered with crops. At a time when closed-loop material ecologies are an environmental aspiration, Romero challenges us to rethink this received wisdom."
– Julie Guthman, author of Wilted: Pathogens, Chemicals, and the Fragile Future of the Strawberry Industry
"This book brilliantly illuminates the synergies between the production of industrial waste and the industrialization of agriculture in a way no other has. In Romero's telling, America's agricultural landscape was never a manifestation of Thomas Jefferson's agrarian dream but a toxic sump."
– Linda Nash, author of Inescapable Ecologies: A History of Environment, Disease, and Knowledge