Written by Frances Beinecke, President, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council)
Monarch butterflies are disappearing from our neighborhoods and gardens. Less than 20 years ago, an astounding 1 billion monarchs migrated to Mexico for the winter. This year, a mere fraction of that — just 33.5 million — made the journey. Why? In large part, it’s because the use of potent herbicides made by Monsanto and other agri-tech giants is skyrocketing — and killing off the native milkweed that monarchs need to survive.
NRDC has just filed an urgent petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, demanding that it rein in the alarming overuse of herbicides that are wiping out monarchs. The time to act is now, before we lose this wonder of nature.
Every year, monarchs embark on the one of the most extraordinary migrations on the planet. They flitter and fly upwards of 3,000 miles across the U.S. and Canada to just a relative few wintering grounds, including Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains. Along the way, they pollinate our gardens and grace our neighborhoods with their orange brilliance.
Yet in recent years, monarchs have struggled to find the one plant they need to survive: milkweed. This is their main source of food and the only place they lay their eggs.
The main culprit is the weed killer glyphosate. Its use began skyrocketing in the late 1990s when Monsanto introduced “Roundup Ready” corn and soybeans, which are resistant to its Roundup herbicide (Monsanto’s version of glyphosate).
Thanks to an explosion of these genetically modified crops, Big Ag is dumping more of these weed killers than ever on fields across America — some 182 million pounds annually.
All that spraying is decimating milkweed. As a result, monarch populations have plunged. This is the ninth year in a row that the population of monarchs wintering in Mexico has fallen below its long-term average, and this year it hit an all-time low.
The good news is that it’s not too late to stop their decline — if we act now.
NRDC will continue to push the EPA to curb the rampant use of these weed killers. At the same time, we’ll be taking on some of the most powerful companies on the planet: Monsanto, Dow, Dupont and other makers of herbicides that are obliterating monarchs.
We’ll also be calling on transportation departments to stop spraying glyphosate along highways and to start planting “safe corridors” filled with milkweed to sustain monarchs on their journey.
To learn more about how you can help monarch butterflies, visit NRDC.
Learn how you can help plant milkweed in honor of a loved one.
Photo credit: NRDC