News Stories

Why Butterflies are Disappearing

In summer, people in certain parts of the Midwest expect to see Monarch butterflies, but they're becoming scarce. Experts think that this is because farm fields are now planted with genetically-modified corn and soybeans that are resistant to the herbicide Roundup, so farmers to spray the chemical over the entire crop in order to eradicate weeds. But when they do this, they also kill off the milkweed, which is the butterflies' favorite food.

Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed, and their larvae eat it. In the July 12th edition of the New York Times, Andrew Pollack quotes insect ecologist Chip Taylor as saying, "This milkweed has disappeared from at least 100 million acres of these row crops. Your milkweed is virtually gone." Other causes of milkweed demise are land development and severe weather. Monarchs are also being killed off by illegal logging at their wintering sites in Mexico.

Pollack quotes entomologist Lincoln P. Brower as saying, "(Roundup) kills everything. It's like absolute Armageddon for biodiversity over a huge area." Because they make weed control so much easier, GM crops have been widely adopted by farmers, until--this year--94% of the soybeans and 72% of the corn grown in the US are Roundup tolerant GM crops.

Scientists say that the only solution might be for butterfly lovers to convince farmers to plant GM milkweed that resists Roundup (but first they'd have to convince Monsanto to create the seeds). Pollack quotes Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch as saying, "I would implore them to develop a Roundup-resistant milkweed."

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