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Chemicals Blamed for Mexico's Vanishing Monarchs

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. -
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November 13, 2014

The annual migration of the monarchs, one of the most inspiring natural phenomena on the planet, may be coming to an end. The population count in Mexico plunged from a billion strong a decade ago to just 33.5 million this year, and an expert declared that the migration is "at serious risk of disappearing." The principal culprit of their decline is a rapacious industrial agriculture system.

Scientists say deforestation in Mexico, drought and climate change may be contributing to the monarchs' peril. But a main cause, they agree, is the soaring use of the powerful weed killer glyphosate, first marketed as Roundup by biotech giant Monsanto. Roundup is wiping out milkweed, the only plant that monarch larvae can eat.

Long one of the most effective weed killers on the market, glyphosate's use skyrocketed since the late 1990s when Monsanto introduced "Roundup Ready" corn and soybeans. Midwestern farmers quickly adopted those genetically engineered herbicide-resistant seeds, which now account for an estimated 72 per cent of corn and 94 per cent of soybeans.

Farmers can now blanket their fields with the herbicide without harming their crops — but very efficiently killing any milkweed in the way. The result: Glyphosate use has risen tenfold and devastated the monarchs' milkweed habitat.

It's not too late to save the monarchs. But we need to act quickly to make room for the plant they need to survive.

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