The Commercial Ecology of Scavenger Capitalism: Monsanto, Fossil Fuels, and the Remaking of a Chemical Giant

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Media Outlet: Cambridge University Press

Bart Elmore published research on Monsanto in the Cambridge University Press’ Enterprise and Society journal:

Monsanto’s transformation from a chemical firm to a biotechnology business in the 1980s and 1990s reveals that an increasingly small corporate cartel gained dominion over petroleum refining byproducts and that this concentration of ownership had profound implications for the future solvency of Monsanto. As the price of petrochemical feedstocks rose, Monsanto, a company that made 80 percent of its products from fossil fuels, began to pursue an alternative path to profits. In short, concentrated corporate ownership of critical natural resources forced some companies in the chemical commodity production business to pursue radically new ways of generating cash flow. This was especially true for scavenger capitalists such as Monsanto, firms that had historically made their money by scavenging raw material stockpiles produced by booming commercial industries. 


Bartow Elmore is an Eric & Wendy Schmidt Fellow at New America. He is an assistant professor of environmental history at The Ohio State University and a member of their Sustainable and Resilient Economy Discovery Group.