Who doesn’t like butterflies? I for one LOVE them.
They would have to be one of the most beautiful and innocent creatures out there. The monarch butterfly in particular provides a glorious show each year as they migrate over a 1000 miles through North America and even through parts of Australia.
It may be (and should be!) sad news for some to learn that this annual phenomenon is in danger. The monarch butterfly’s population is experiencing a sharp decline. It’s hard to say where its future lies, but read on to learn more about what we can do to try and steer it in the right direction.
It’s a twisted story that’s heavily rooted in the growing use of agrochemicals on GM crops.
The story goes a little something like this.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved a new generation of genetically engineered soybeans designed by Bayer CropScience. This in itself is not that ground-breaking when it comes to ground-breaking news. Many strands of GMOs and variations of agrochemicals have been in circulation for years wrecking havoc on our environment.
What baffles me is the enormous amount of economic and human resources that are being continually thrown into this boiling cauldron of toil and trouble that’s set on producing ‘bigger’ and ‘better’ genetic modifications; modifications that are there to make these crops even more resistant to toxic herbicide sprays that contain toxic chemicals such as glyphosate and isoxaflutole.
This cycle is simply contributing to the growing problem rather than looking to find, and support existing, more sustainable ways to manage them.
If you’re not quite sure how the twisted relationship between GM crops and chemical sprays operates – they basically rely on the heavy spraying of agrochemicals to kill off weeds and pests; sprays of which they are genetically designed to withstand the effects of. Aside from the growing body of evidence proving there are many health and environmental risks of GMO crops, a conflict of interest arises whereby these same companies designing the GE seeds are those manufacturing the agrochemicals. Take for instance Bayer CropScience; it’s the second-largest agrochemicals manufacturer in the world, trailing behind the ever so ‘humble’ giant Monsanto, that is infamously known for its Round-Up Herbicide and being the leader in GM seed manufacturing.
I for one am very concerned about the direction of the industry and the momentum it’s gaining with these new lines of GE crops as they are merely masking the growing problem of pest mutations and weed-resistance.
Over at Eco-watch, they interviewed Bill Freese, science policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety. He goes on to explain,
“Bayer and other biotech companies are now poised to introduce a host of ‘next-generation’ GE crops resistant to more toxic herbicides as a false ‘solution’ to massive weed resistance. But their effect will be to generate still more intractable weeds resistant to multiple herbicides.”
We’ve heard about the decline of the humble honeybee in the US over the years that studies have proven is directly related to the increase use of GE crops and their associated highly toxic chemical sprays. This is devastating for the future of our food system that relies so heavily on the natural pollination that occurs through the work of these bees.
It’s now being brought to our attention that the monarch butterfly is facing the same dismal future.
Due to the increased use of these herbicides, over 80 million acres of monarch habitat has been eradicated over the years. That’s a lot of acres worth of habitat.
The monarch butterfly will only lay its eggs on the milkweed plant; a plant that is being wiped out by glyphosate usage, so you can piece together how these sprays are contributing to the significant decline in the population of this beautiful creature. Whilst milkweed is considered a weed, it’s the only food source for the monarch caterpillars and as in all things, it plays a role in the eco-system. As do the caterpillars that act as a food source for other animals and the butterflies that help to pollinate flowers. Whilst milkweed leaves are poisonous to humans, the monarch butterfly caterpillars actually rely solely on these leaves as a food source. Ingesting these poisons doesn’t kill the caterpillar, but rather, it’s then able to utilize the toxins within itself to ward off predators. Nature is so clever!
Milkweed plants grow as wildflowers in fields and along roadsides in Eastern North America; these same fields and roadsides that have been affected for years by the heavy spraying of crops with glyphosate.
There’s been a 31% decline of non-agricultural milkweeds and an 81% decline of agricultural milkweeds with a 58% decline of total milkweeds, according to an extensive research paper written on this case study.
“Monarch butterfly populations are declining due to loss of habitat. To assure a future for monarchs, conservation and restoration of milkweeds needs to become a national priority,” explains Chip Taylor, Director over at Monarch Watch.
Seeing this devastation occur in the States, I can only imagine the kind of problems we could see arise here in Australia if they aren’t already.
What can you do to help?
Firstly, get educated on what foods you should be avoiding that contain GMOs. You don’t want to be supporting an industry that is so blatantly unsustainable and threatening the future of our environment and way of life. The Non-GMO Project is a great resource for more imformation about this.
You can further extend your support by jumping onto the Monarch Watch website to find out more about their projects.
Hop onto the USDA website for more information on what varieties of plants you can grow in your region that with support the Monarch butterfly population. You can do your part by supporting a healthy ecosystem in your backyard to support this beautiful creature.
Then share this to spread the word!
This post was shared on “Small Footprint Fridays“