Yale Environment 360: University of Kansas insect ecologist Orley R. “Chip” Taylor has been observing the fragile populations of monarch butterflies for decades, but he says he has never been more concerned about their future.
Monarchs are beloved for their spectacular migration across Canada and the United States to overwintering sites in central Mexico — and back again. But a new census taken at the monarchs’ wintering grounds found their population had declined 59 percent over the previous year and was at the lowest level ever measured.
In an interview with Yale Environment 360 contributor Richard Conniff, Taylor — founder and director of Monarch Watch, a conservation and outreach program — talked about the factors that have led to the sharp drop in the monarch population. Among them, Taylor said, is the increased planting of genetically modified corn in the U.S. Midwest, which has led to greater use of herbicides, which in turn kills the milkweed that is a prime food source for the butterflies.
“What we’re seeing here in the United States,” he said, “is a very precipitous decline of monarchs that’s coincident with the adoption of Roundup-ready corn and soybeans.” [Continue reading…]
Meanwhile, thanks to its lackeys in the Senate, just a few days ago Monsanto (the manufacturer of Roundup and Roundup-ready GMO crops) got a legal waiver that effectively bypasses consideration of the safety of its products.
Take Part: When the Senate passed a budget resolution last Wednesday that appears to prevent some of the potential damage from sequestration, the Continuing Resolution included several food- and agriculture-related earmarks.
But one inclusion in particular is especially controversial. The “biotech rider” would require the USDA to approve the harvest and sale of crops from genetically modified seed even if a court has ruled the environmental studies on the crop were inadequate. This aspect of the bill infuriated many sustainable food and agriculture groups, who nicknamed the bill the “Monsanto Protection Act.”
If signed into law by President Obama, here’s what the Monsanto Protection Act would do: It will allow farmers to plant, harvest and sell genetically engineered plants even if the crops have been ruled upon unfavorably in court. A Center for Food Safety statement called the rider “an unprecedented attack on U.S. judicial review of agency actions” and “ a major violation of the separation of powers.”
But perhaps more frightening, other critics say, is that the Monsanto Protection Act threatens the health and wellbeing of the public by undermining the federal courts’ ability to protect farmers and the environment from potentially hazardous genetically engineered (GE) crops.
The Monsanto Protection Act was slipped into the bill while it sat in the Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski. According to the Center for Food Safety, the committee held no hearings on this controversial biotech rider and many Democrats were unaware of its presence in the larger bill.
To understand why many people regard Monsanto as the corporate embodiment of pure evil, watch “The World According to Monsanto”: