Monarch Butterflies Can Survive the World’s Most Amazing Migration—But GMOs Are Wiping Them Out

A monarch butterfly, with milkweed. <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/26782864@N00/8190406715/in/photolist-dtKYyT-dtRx81-dtKXbK-dtL1eH-8JAHjt-8JjNyU-8JjNGo-8JAHAa-fFGWW2-83yg1Q-dnnoPs-dnnoNm-dnnoLb-dnnkQz-bnTyj3-bnTxmY-bnTxN9-83uvyD-dfRaL7-8mmqtj-bqduow-fAha4T-5N7WTy-dkB5MQ-dnnkND-dnnoQw-5DWtyF-7R7dw-5HfWa2-jmDEKx-sTMw-7mxV9F-b1aRQx-7R6Z9-8uCSSh-niMrf-213DQi-213DyP-2182Pu-cTacE7-cTacoQ-dnnkTM-asXFVx-BxWRn-dkB6aW-dkB6UQ-dnnoDo-aqQW1B-8uCRNf-8n1gs-iU5Afo">William Warby</a>/Flickr

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The monarch butterfly is a magnificent and unique beast—the globe’s only butterfly species that embarks on an annual round-trip migration spanning thousands of miles, from the northern US and Canada to central Mexico. And monarchs aren’t just a gorgeous bug; they’re also pollinators, meaning they help keep land-based ecosystems humming. Their populations have been plunging for years, and the number of them hibernating in Mexico last year hit an all-time low, reports University of Minnesota ecologist Karen Oberhauser. Why? Here’s Oberhauser:

Tragically, much of their breeding habitat in this region [the US and Canada] has been lost to changing agricultural practices, primarily the exploding adoption of genetically modified, herbicide-tolerant crops in the late 20th and early 21st centuries … These crops allow post-emergence treatment with herbicides, and have resulted in the extermination of milkweed from agricultural habitats.

In a 2012 post, I teased out how crops engineered for herbicide tolerance wipe out milkweed, the monarch’s main source of food, and lead to the charismatic specie’s decline. And here’s the peer-reviewed paper, co-authored by Oberhauser, that documents the trend.

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Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

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Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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