To Help Save Monarch Butterflies, Buy Organic

monarch-butterfly-orange-flower

I was devastated to learn last week that the number of monarch butterflies who made it to their winter stomping grounds in Mexico plunged 59% from 2012 to 2011, continuing a downward trend of several years. In New York where I live, the parade of monarchs passing through each spring and fall is our Great Migration — not that the opportunity for wildlife viewing is the important thing here, but it does help to make people notice and care.

Among the chief causes for the monarch decline is the shrinking supply of milkweed — essential to monarch larvae, which hatch on the plants and then feed on them. In the butterfly stage, monarchs feed on a variety of plants, but for larvae, only milkweed will do.

No GMO, Yes OrganicWhy is milkweed in short supply? An increase in farmland in the American Midwest devoted to genetically engineered (GE) crops, aka genetically modified organisms, aka GMOs.

These GMOs are engineered to resist herbicides so farmers can apply high doses of chemicals to the fields. The result is a decrease in milkweed — and therefore fewer places for monarch butterflies to lay their eggs. Fewer eggs means fewer butterflies.

If this makes you want to avoid GE foods, good luck trying to identify them. More than 60 countries require GE labeling, but not the United States.

The solution? Buy organic food, which can neither be grown with chemicals, be genetically engineered nor contain genetically engineered ingredients. With this simple step, you can support a safe environment for milkweed, monarchs and all living things.

You can also help by demanding GMO labeling. Go to JustLabelIt.org to tell the FDA and Congress that you have a right to know if GMOs are in your food.

Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve

Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Mexico (attribution)

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4 Responses to To Help Save Monarch Butterflies, Buy Organic

  1. craftygreenpoet March 21, 2013 at 3:56 am #

    I’m reading Four Wings and a Prayer at the moment (Sue Halpern’s book about monarch migration and the scientists who’ve researched it). Such an amazing phenomenon. it would be tragic if it were to disappear, yet the butterflies are under so much pressure – their overwintering forests in Mexico are under a lot of pressure from illegal logging as well as the issues you’ve mentioned about milkweed.

  2. Sheryl March 21, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    Yes, and climate change is yet another threat. Scientists say that the precipitous drop in the monarch population in 2012 (as opposed to the more gradual longer-term decline) is probably due to severe heat and drought that year. Extreme weather of that sort can be expected to occur more and more often with climate change.

    Also, the discovery that monarchs turn north in response to a ‘cold trigger’ has some scientists worrying that unseasonal cold spells due to climate change could turn the butterflies around early. See this Scientific American article — http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=climate-change-may-disrupt-monarch-butterfly-migration. –Sheryl

  3. Kandi April 11, 2013 at 7:05 am #

    Not just GMO’s cause harm, “Gentleman’s Farms” have changed things as well.
    “Real farms” in our area are few and far between. Drive a distance out of the Ligonier (PA) area and you will see what I am talking about. I grew up next to my grandparent’s farm and along and in the fields were wildflowers such as Butterfly Weed, Queen Anne’s Lace, Milkweed, “Cornflowers”, “Butter & Eggs” +++ You don’t see this anymore in the “Land of Post and Rail Fences” and have not for a very long time.

  4. Janelle Ford April 11, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    I can’t stop others from using chemicals but there are none in my yard. And when the kids ask why there are bees and flutterbys in my yard I tell them why. And yes there is mildweed in my yard and on my fence. Hope others continue to work for the monarch.