Monarch butterfly on branch

The word Monarch dates back as old as the Greek “monarkhes” and the Late Latin “monarcha” or one who rules alone. It was only in the late 19th century that a large and quite beautiful butterfly was given the regal name monarch. This king of butterflies is only one in a long list of fauna and flora disappearing at a rapid rate due to mankind’s mischievous and misguided war against nature. They are becoming endangered. Will their departure, as their name connotes, be heralded as the king of extinction? 

The Christian Science Monitor tells this grim tale only too well. According to Conservationists at the Center for Biological Diversity, monarch populations have declined by 90 percent in the past 20 years!

A Kingly Journey

Monarchs travel vast formidable distances across North America spanning ranges of 2,000 to 3,000 miles. This cross-continental migration traverses from Mexico to the Rocky Mountains, into the great plains of Canada and even further into the Pacific Northwest. This passage is astounding considering their wing span is a mere 9 to 10 centimeters. It requires four generations to make this airborne voyage. The illustrious milkweed plant is the one and only place they can lay and hatch their young during this pilgrimage. This weed of North America once flourished abundantly across the continent. Today it is the victim of modern industrial agriculture, almost eradicated from the landscape. What happened?

GMO’s Mean Bye Bye Milkweed

Only a handful of countries produce GMO crops and North America is the leader in quantity and in acres planted. Here in the U.S. about 90% of corn, soy, and cotton are grown with GMO technology. This technology creates genes that have been artificially manipulated in a laboratory, creating living organisms that have never before occurred in nature. Most of this genetic tinkering creates plants that are intolerant to heavy applications of herbicides. Farmers who plant GMO can spray with wild abandon killing all weeds, wildflowers, and native plants in their wake. Everything is done off except the GMO plant. Milkweed has fallen prey to this sinister barrage of BT, Glyphosate (Roundup Ready), and now 2,4-D (Agent Orange). Milkweed is particularly susceptible to these herbicides and has all but disappeared from the  continent.

A Royal Eradication

The situation is so dire that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering increasing protections for the majestic butterfly under the Endangered Species Act. This comes as a response to a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson, AZ, the Center for Food Safety in Washington, D.C, and The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation in Portland, OR.

What Can You Do?

Always choose foods that are certified organically grown. Crops grown without Big Ag’s toxic herbicides protect the natural biodiversity of the earth. This rule is especially important when buying products made of soy, corn, and cotton.

You can also plant milkweed species that are native to your area. Plant them in your yard, garden, and alongside your road. Cultivate areas of wild native plants and always include milkweed. Never use pesticides and herbicides on your lawn and garden.

Go ahead and sign the petition requiring the U.S. Government to take urgent and significant action to protect monarchs from further decline. Monarchs need royal, comprehensive protection now and your signature will count. If passed, it will require federal funds to protect the milkweed habitats so monarchs can once again breed and migrate and flourish.

Read about and support Save Our Monarchs Foundation.

There is a tragic and accelerated decline of many widespread and once common species going on all around us. Is it possible that our children will never witness the delicate flight of the monarch? Let’s turn our attention to the plight of this stately and noble butterfly as a majestic step to restoring balance in our world.

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About The Author

Melody Meyer's picture

Melody is the Vice President of Policy and Industry Relations for United Natural Foods (UNFI). In this role she is responsible for communicating and educating all stakeholders on critical organic issues. Her Blog covers a range of organic and sustainable food issues.

She is the executive director of the UNFI Foundation which is dedicated to funding non-profit organizations that promote organic agriculture Melody serves as Secretary of the Board of Directors for the Organic Trade Association

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