Genetically altered crops — butterfly killing machines

To the editor:

I was thrilled to see a photo of monarch butterflies resting on the beach near the Westport/Little Compton line along their migration to Mexico.  In the late summer, every monarch in North America east of the Rockies will attempt to migrate to Mexico where they will overwinter.

Because we are on the Atlantic fly-way we witness large masses of monarchs every year flying southward around the end of September to the beginning of October.  Gooseberry is a phenomenal place to see monarchs along their migratory pathway.

This year scientists in Mexico have estimated the lowest number of monarchs since 1997.  We would like to believe that conservation in our own back yards may help the monarch.  However, the reality is that a majority of the monarchs that overwinter in Mexico are from the central part of the United States, not from the Northeast.

Just this past month, scientists out of Cornell published an article that indicates that genetically-modified crops are a significant reason for monarch butterfly declines.  Since the creation of Monsanto’s “Round Up” — ready crops (genetically engineered crops that have had their DNA altered to allow them to withstand the herbicide), the percentage of milkweed, the larval plant of the monarch, in the midwest has dropped over 50 percent.

Yes, we should not be weed–whacking the milkweed in our backyards and should educate highway crews and homeowners on milkweed conservation, but until we stand up to the milkweed killing machines — genetically-modified crops —  the miracle of the monarch will remain threatened.

Lauren Miller-Donnelly

Westport

Editor’s note: Ms. Miller-Donnelly is the property manager for Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary and lives in Westport.  “I focused my master’s research on butterfly usage of different field types in South Dartmouth.  I participate in MonarchWatch every year and am an active Massachusetts Butterfly Club field trip leader.”

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