MONOCULTURE AND THE MONARCH BUTTERFLY
According to the World Wildlife Fund the number of monarch butterflies migrating to Mexico has been declining steadily and last year was at its lowest level on record.
The encroaching monoculture of soybeans and corn has replaced over a million acres of Upper Midwest grassland, home to the milkweed, the only plant monarch larvae will eat. Biogenetic agriculture giant Monsanto has engineered strains of corn and soybeans resistant to its own glysophate-based brand of weed killer Roundup. In 2013 83% of all corn and and 93% of all soybeans in the United States were herbicide tolerant. It is estimated that the presence of milkweed in farm fields has fallen by more than 80%. According to Iowa State University biologist, John Pleasants, 98% of the milkweed on Iowa farmlands is gone.
Other causes factor into the monarch's decline, especially early springs brought about by climate change. In 2012 unusually warm weather caused monarchs to migrate north before most of the milkweed emerged. Chip Taylor, a University of Kansas ecologist who runs Monarch Watch, a program that monitors monarch populations, has started marketing milkweed seedlings to gardeners to make up for displaced habitat. He's sold 20,000 seedlings so far and is expected to double or triple that amount this year but it is still a fraction of what is needed if monarchs are to return to their former number.
Pressure is being put on industry giants like Monsanto to contribute to efforts to plant milkweed elsewhere and preservationist group sumofus.org has a campaign to to pressure them into pulling Roundup from the market until monarch numbers return. You can sign their petition at http://action.sumofus.org/a/monsanto-is-killing-the-monarchs/?sub=taf
Posted by Mark Nuismer for Ecopol