(NaturalNews) Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and pesticide-drenched fields are detrimental to the planet in just about every aspect. They're deteriorating human health, stifling plant diversity, inflicting soil damage, encouraging growth of superbugs and superweeds and, in some cases, eliminating planet species entirely.
Milkweed, a perennial herb that's native to Southern Canada, has seen an enormous decline over the past several years. A study led by Tyler Flockhart, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Guelph, found that the number of milkweed plants, which produce a fragrant, nectariferous flower, have rapidly declined by up to 20 percent over the last several decades.
"It's a massive number of milkweeds -- about 1.5 billion milkweed plants," said Flockhart.
Milkweed is very common throughout the Midwest, often thriving at the edge of cornfields, but following the introduction of Monsanto's Roundup Ready seeds in the late 1990s, the area's ecology changed.
"The researchers estimate that the amount of milkweed in in [sic] the Midwest plunged by 58 percent from 1999 to 2010, pressured mainly by the expansion of Roundup Ready genetically engineered crops," reportedMother Jones.
Not only is it disheartening to learn that a much needed plant like milkweed has a prominent chance of going extinct, but it's key for the survival of one of our nation's most beautiful butterflies, the monarch.
Researchers originally attributed the decline in monarch butterflies to several different factors, including the loss of milkweed due to urban sprawl, illegal logging in the butterflies' Mexican wintering ground and the rise of genetically engineered crops.
However, further research has shown that GMO crops are the primary culprits for the decline in the plant. Why GMOs are eliminating milkweed
Under the guidance of biotech giants like Monsanto and DuPont, most farmers are now planting corn and soybeans resistant to herbicides, and generously applying additional pesticides to their fields.
This is problematic for the milkweed plant, because it often grows in between crops like corn and soybean but cannot survive the application of heavy chemicals.
Milkweed and other species of plants thriving among agricultural crops are then wiped out.
Monarch butterflies are extremely reliant on the milkweed plant, using it for food and as a safe house for reproduction. Once butterflies' eggs hatch, caterpillars immediately begin feeding on the plant, providing the fuel required for metamorphosis. Milkweed bugs, a variety of beetles, and the milkweed tussock moth caterpillar also largely depend on this plant for survival.
According to CBC News, "67 per cent of milkweed plants in the butterflies' breeding grounds are found in 'agriculture-intensive landscapes,' [Flockhart's] study reported."
Hope is not lost, however. Researchers have several ideas as how to reinstate a flourishing monarch population, and it's not just protecting the butterflies' wintering grounds in Mexico.
"Here's the lesson for any species that crosses international boundaries or any species that moves long distances over the course of its annual cycle," said study co-author Ryan Norris. "You can't focus on one part of the annual cycle."
The study, published in the Journal of Animal Ecology, maintains that, if the milkweed population continues to decline, monarch populations will fall at least another 14 percent throughout the next century.
In order to restore the monarch population, "One of the main focus areas has to be planting milkweed in the U.S. Midwest," said Norris.
Norris suggested utilizing roadsides for planting milkweed and "mowing the milkweed at strategic times to maximize their use by monarch butterflies, which prefer younger plants."
Because milkweed grows in gardens and lawns, and can be poisonous to humans and animals, it's often considered noxious and removed. According to Flockhart, milkweed needs to be delisted as a noxious weed in butterfly breeding grounds. Some places have proceeded to do this, including Ontario, Canada.
Over time, the various ecological effects of GMOs are expected to become even more transparent, many of which may be irreversible.