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NRDC calls for action to protect monarch butterflies

March 19, 2014
Monarch-Butterfly

By Susan Johnson
Copy Editor

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has filed a “Petition to Conduct Administrative Review for the Pesticide Glyphosate, in Light of Serious Harm to Monarch Butterflies.” Dated Feb. 24, 2014, the petition can be viewed in its entirety at docs.nrdc.org/wildlife/files/wil_14022101a.pdf.

The petition lists several reports and studies in its detailed presentation, which includes a legal standard that references U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) registration requirements. Tracing the history of glyphosate from its initial registration in 1974, going through its re-registration in 1993, the petition urges the USEPA to reconsider the indiscriminate use of this pesticide in view of its effects on a specific plant.

The petition states: “Over the last decade, there has been a sharp decline in the monarch population that traverses the American Midwest and overwinters in Mexico. By eliminating milkweed — the exclusive food source for monarch larvae — the pervasive use of glyphosate has contributed to the monarch’s decline. The decimation of milkweed communities, particularly from agricultural areas, is associated with an 81 percent decrease from 1999 to 2010 in the production of monarchs in the Midwest and a 65 percent decrease over the same period in the size of the entire monarch population that overwinters in Mexico. This winter’s annual monarch census in Mexico reported the lowest population levels ever measured, down from last year’s record low.”

The petition also pointed out that glyphosate use has increased significantly since re-registration in 1993. Noting that “glyphosate is applied in part to control milkweed but is also detrimental to crops, its use was not widespread until the creation and approval of glyphosate-resistant crops. The rapid replacement of traditional crop strains with glyphosate-resistant strains substantially accelerated an increase in the use of glyphosate, contributing to a significant decline in milkweed communities.”

Other voices in the fight

Environmentalists and organic food growers have long warned about the health hazards of eating genetically modified (GMO) foods. Natural News reported in July 2011 that a study published in the journal Insect Conservation and Diversity links these GMOs, which take up millions of acres of U.S. cropland, to the decline of monarch butterfly populations.

The study found that during the 2009-2010 monarch overwintering season in Mexico, populations fell to an all-time low. Although they increased slightly the following year, they still remained at very low levels.

In addition to the loss of forest in overwintering areas and continued land development, the report pinpointed the “expansion of GM herbicide-resistant crops, with consequent loss of milkweed host plants” as the primary factor in monarch butterfly decline. Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide specifically targets milkweed for termination, and approximately 150 million pounds of the poison are sprayed on U.S. cropland every year.

Narural News warned: “If GM crops continue to take over the whole of agriculture with great strides, as they continue to do, monarch butterflies (as well as bees and bats) may eventually become extinct. And without these pollinators, of course, it will no longer be possible to grow food.”

The activist group SumofUs.org has an online petition to Monsanto requesting them to withdraw its Roundup herbicide from the market to save the butterflies. The public is invited to sign this petition. It can be accessed at http://action.sumofus.org/a/monsanto-is-killing-the-monarchs/?sub=taf.

From the March 19-25, 2014, issue

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