Monsanto and Other Ag Giants Are Wiping Out Monarchs

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


Jim Ven
Jim Vabout a year ago

thanks for the article.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Ruth R.
Ruth R3 years ago

'The good news is that it’s not too late to stop their decline — if we act now.'

Read more:

Kyle N.
Kyle N3 years ago

Monsanto, DOW is not to blame. Farmers are not to blame, GMO has had no harm to Milkweed populations. The biggest issue that has reduced the monarch population is the weather and forest conditions in Mexico as well as the major issues we have with the Soybean Aphid. If you track the numbers of Monarch's their numbers have dropped since the Soybean aphid came to the U.S. from China. Farmers MUST spray to kill the aphids if the numbers get to be too many which is 250 per plant. Farmers don't like to spray for aphids unless absolutely have to, but sometimes we need to to protect yield. You can also blame the cities excessive use of insecticide that kills mosquito's. IF all goes well, in the next few years we should have soybeans that will resist the Soybean Aphid so hopefully that will end the need for spraying for aphids.

Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson3 years ago

If we lose our butterflies/Monarchs, humans will be the big losers in the end...

Mark Donners
Mark Donner3 years ago

And for the person here giving excuses how you HAVE to use these corporate criminals' pesticides, realize you are acting like the followers of Hitler. There are plenty of proven alternatives to environment destroying pesticides like "roundup", but you know this, you are cowering under the greedy thumb of psychotic corporate agents like Monsanto and Dow, which makes you an accomplice to their environment destroying crimes

Mark Donners
Mark Donner3 years ago

Monsanto and their corporate partners in crime are worse than any dictator that has ever come into power including Hitler and Stalin combined. They are a global terrorist organization that must be stopped by all means.

Debbie Crowe
Debbie C3 years ago

We have a MIlkweed plant on our back fence! My hubby wanted to kill it off, and I went into a rampage! He knows I am a Butterfly freak, so he understands now!

margaret R
Margaret Reid3 years ago

we have governments who are supposed to protect people. We have laws to protect people. Where is the protection of people when it comes to the destruction of our environment and eco-structures. Why do we need multi-nationals who damage our environment in the name of profit, advancement, better food, etc. We know their "advances" destroy our environment. We know multi-nationals pollute our environment. We know that food (live animals) kept in the conditions they are, is not morally right and we know that obesity figures show that many people eat too much. We don't need it all. Multi-nationals thrive, farmers go for quick fixes to meet the demands for cheap food, even if it is not good to eat. I'd rather eat a cabbage that contained an insect in it that one that didn't. I would know it wasn't full of chemicals. Why don't we turn to hydroponics if we don't want to exterminate all our insects and pollinators. Every time our governments ignore the needs of the environment in favour of multi-nationals they threaten our world. Climate change is under our noses. And even our beautiful monarch butterflies are being eroded - no butterflies, no bees - what a wonderful future for our children (not)

Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa3 years ago

Thank you