Originally published March 28 2015
Migrating monarch butterfly population declined 94 percent in 17 years
by Jennifer Lilley
(NaturalNews) Despite the fact that the monarch butterfly's population has severely dwindled in fewer than 20 years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has yet to take protective action. As such, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has filed a complaint against the EPA, noting that the EPA has failed to respond to an emergency petition filed by NRDC last year.
The complaint not only hones in on the monarch butterfly's shockingly low population, but drives home the point that glyphosate, the chemical in pesticides, is to blame. The NRDC maintains that the EPA turns a blind eye concerning the dangers of the chemical, and even approves it for use, actions that are clearly jeopardizing monarch butterflies.
According to the complaint, "Glyphosate...has decimated milkweed, the sole food source for monarch caterpillars..." which has placed "this distinctive butterfly and the annual migration in peril." The complaint goes on to describe the butterfly's migration -- crossing a great deal of the United States as it goes from Mexico and Canada then back -- noting that their contact with chemical-riddled milkweed along the way has caused their population to diminish significantly.
In 1997, for example, about one billion monarch butterflies migrated to Mexico in their journey from Canada and throughout the United States. Flash forward to the recent winter. Just 56.5 million of them reached their destination, a number which the NRDC complaint maintains is second lowest number ever measured. So low is this number that even scientists are alarmed; they say that their migration is at risk for completely vanishing, noting that even one bad weather event could make the monarch butterfly a thing of the past.
Why the loss of monarch butterflies matters These orange and black butterflies are more than a beautiful sight; their lowering numbers also mean that the areas of education, science, the ecosystem and even human health may be impacted.
When it comes to education, their life cycle and caterpillar-to-butterfly transformation has long-been a process explained to young children eager to learn about wildlife and the environment. The life cycle process, as well as their markings and migration, have also been of considerable interest to scientists who study them in an effort to better understand population dynamics, navigation and biodiversity conservation.
As far as human health, the vast number of people who engage in long walks in order to spot the butterfly in the wild have been observed through the years. From photographers and volunteers to the person who simply wants to see one fluttering about nearby, many people walk a great deal. In the UK for example, where over 800 butterfly sites are monitored, it's estimated that volunteers who count butterflies have walked what would be the distance to the moon.
Butterflies are also a vital part of the food chain; they're prey for animals such as bats and birds.
Considering all of the benefits they provide the environment, their loss is disturbing. So too, is the fact that the EPA is choosing to protect the pockets of those favoring glyphosate rather than protecting the loss of these beautiful butterflies.
Monsanto, butterflies and bank accounts As for the powers that be at Monsanto, who are astutely aware of the problems facing the monarch butterfly, they are firm in their belief that their chemicals are doing no harm.
According to a blog on their site titled, "Helping Protect the Monarch Butterfly," Monsanto suggests that the diminishing butterfly is a lot of hype. The blog states, "Saying a species is closing in on extinction when most disagree or calling on government to list monarchs as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act makes for a great news headline. It doesn't do anything to help solve the problem."
Yes, Monsanto, it does help solve the problem. It just doesn't solve the problem for you, which would mean changes to glyphosphate use and of course, your bank account.
Monsanto maintains that further collaboration needs to be conducted regarding the plight of this butterfly, something which they say they aim to do as they work with nonprofits and some government agencies.
"At Monsanto," the blog says, "we're committed to doing our part to protect these amazing butterflies."
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