Twelve years ago, a study found that genetically modified Bt corn was lethal to monarch butterflies; recent research shows that another type of GM crop is even more damaging to the beloved insect. Chip Taylor, an insect ecologist at the University of Kansas and co-author of the paper, told the New York Times, “This milkweed has disappeared from at least 100 million acres of these row crops. Your milkweed is virtually gone.”
The paper documents that populations of monarch butterflies in central Mexico, where they migrate to in winter, have declined over the past 17 years, reaching an all-time low in 2009-2010.
Milkweed’s disappearance has also been documented by Robert Hartzler, an agronomist at Iowa State University, who found that the plant’s presence in Iowa’s corn and soybean fields has plunged 90% from 1999 to 2009. Hartzler also says that glyphosate has contributed to milkweed’s decline.
Taylor says more research will be published documenting glyphosate’s role in decimating monarch butterfly populations. “There are other papers in the works that will verify the decline and the association with the adoption of herbicide tolerant crops.”
Taylor, who heads Monarch Watch, a group dedicated to conserving monarchs, says that efforts should focus on preserving milkweed by encouraging individuals to introduce the plant into home gardens and reintroducing it wherever it has been eradicated.
Brower recommends that roadsides in the US be protected from pesticide spraying and that more conservation areas are set aside to maintain native plants.
Brower says most Americans aren’t aware of the devastation to biodiversity caused by GM crops. “It’s atrocious what’s going on, and it’s very easy for the biotechnology companies like Monsanto to propagandize and mislead the public.”