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Thu Mar 22, 2012, 10:58 AM

GM Crops Are Killing Monarch Butterflies, After All

—By Tom Philpott| Wed Mar. 21, 2012 10:00 AM PDT

If any insect species can be described as charismatic minifauna, it's the monarch butterfly. The gorgeous creatures flutter about in a migratory range that stretches from the northern part of South America up into Canada. The monarch is the only butterfly species that undertakes such a long-distance migration. And when they alight upon a place en masse, heads turn. No fewer than five states—Texas, Alabama, Idaho, illinois, and Minnesota—claim the monarch as their state insect.

Unfortunately, the monarch populations appear to be in a state of decline. Why? A new study (abstract; press release) from University of Minnesota and Iowa State University researchers points to an answer: the rapid rise of crops engineered to withstand herbicides.

Their argument is powerful. Monarchs lay their eggs on one particular kind of plant: the milkweed. And when the eggs hatch, the caterpillars feed exclusively on the weed. Milkweed is common throughout the Midwest, and has long thrived at the edges of corn fields. But when Monsanto rolled out its "Roundup Ready" seeds in 1996, which grew into plants that could thrive amid lashings of its flagship Roundup herbicide, the Midwest's ecology changed. As farmers regularly doused ever-expanding swaths of land with Roundup without having to worry about the hurting their crops, milkweed no longer thrived—and as a result, the charismatic butterfly whose caterpillars require it can no longer thrive, either.

The researchers estimate that the amount of milkweed in in the Midwest plunged by 58 percent from 1999 to 2010, pressured mainly by the expansion of Roundup Ready genetically engineered crops. Over the same period, monarch egg production in the regions sank by 81 percent. And it turns out that monarchs tend to lay more eggs milkweeds that sprout up in and around cultivated fields. So when farmers snuff out the milkweeds with Roundup, they're exerting a disproportionate effect on monarchs.
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http://motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/03/researchers-gm-crops-are-killing-monarch-butterflies-after-all

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Arrow 12 replies Author Time Post
Reply GM Crops Are Killing Monarch Butterflies, After All (Original post)
n2doc Mar 2012 OP
zipplewrath Mar 2012 #1
RobertEarl Mar 2012 #2
zipplewrath Mar 2012 #3
mopinko Mar 2012 #4
RobertEarl Mar 2012 #5
zipplewrath Mar 2012 #6
RobertEarl Mar 2012 #7
zipplewrath Mar 2012 #8
RobertEarl Mar 2012 #9
zipplewrath Mar 2012 #11
nanabugg Mar 2012 #10
hunter Mar 2012 #12

Response to n2doc (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 11:27 AM

1. Okay, that's a stretch

The GM crops aren't killing the butterflies, the farmers are, by destroying habitat. The GM crops just make it easier to destroy the habitat. I'm also a bit suspicious about the 58% number. Yes, they can grow around crop lands. Milkweed ALSO grows in far more "natural" habitats. If the 58% number is correct, it is an example of how extensive the natural habitat destruction is. It is suggesting that there is "no where" else for milkweed to grow.

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Response to zipplewrath (Reply #1)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 11:37 AM

2. Roundup is the killer

Lets be clear: That poison being sprayed all over fields near and far is destroying the key habitat specie that Monarchs depend on.

Monarchs are not engineered to be roundup ready.

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Response to RobertEarl (Reply #2)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 11:45 AM

3. Yes

Roundup has made habitat destruction very easy. You could never accomplish it politically, but one can make a case that land that is NOT in production should be "protected" so that SOME natural habitat could continue to exist. And really, one could bring that concept all the way into the city, insisting on a perference for construction and landscaping that preserves as much habitat as reasonable.

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Response to zipplewrath (Reply #3)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 11:48 AM

4. ++

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Response to zipplewrath (Reply #3)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 11:53 AM

5. Conservation lands?

Already being done. But there is no known protection from roundup. That poison does not recognize conservation areas. It kills natural things anywhere and everywhere it drifts.

Like I said, the conservation ideas you are just now discovering are being done across the US, on farms and in the cities, and yet the Monarch populations are still crashing.

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Response to RobertEarl (Reply #5)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:01 PM

6. Medians and margins

Actually, I'm thinking more in terms of private lands. Places around the edges of fields, the areas underneath high tension towers, etc. that aren't "in production" but are privately owned and often subject to "indiscriminate" destruction. Highway medians, retention ponds, and drainage ditches all could be handled in a way to encourage more "natural" or "local" habitat instead of just planting grass or non-native plants.

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Response to zipplewrath (Reply #6)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:10 PM

7. It's being done already

But until the use of roundup is tightly controlled and treated as the WMD that it is, all those efforts are for naught.

Too, think about this.... do you really want butterflies to be forced into living alongside and forced to cross highways? Of course not, that would be ridiculous.

*WMD: Weapons of Monarch Destruction

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Response to RobertEarl (Reply #7)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:20 PM

8. Not around here

But okay. They plant, and replant every few years, with tremondous amounts of grass around the highways and "open areas". But yes, the point of all of this would be to restrict and prevent the indiscriminant use of Round up and other herbiscides so that they don't create "collateral damage".

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Response to zipplewrath (Reply #8)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:33 PM

9. Just quit using roundup

Of course someone will come along and claim the solution is to make Monarchs 'roundup ready' to which I would say to them they are crazy.

If you look up 'conservation areas' you will find that much is being done nearly everywhere. Governments have a multitude of programs to do just what you have been suggesting. And Monarch numbers are still crashing.

What government needs to do now is ban roundup.

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Response to RobertEarl (Reply #9)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 01:05 PM

11. 'Taint gonna happen

You might get roundup "restricted", but you'll never get politicians to do such a "bread and butter" thing. Now, if you can invent a decent replacement.....

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:35 PM

10. Just saw your thread. Here is a resource I posted in another thread here

 

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 01:31 PM

12. The corn industry needs to die.

No more pink slime factory farm meat, no more High Fructose Corn Syrup, no more ethanol fuel.

It would be good for humans and good for the monarch butterflies.

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