Saturday, 1 November 2014

Honest Food Labels Can Help Save Monarchs (Op-Ed)

Peter Lehner, executive director, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) | November 01, 2014 12:54am ET

Peter Lehner is executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). This op-ed will appear on the NRDC blog Switchboard. Lehner contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights

The legendary migration of the monarch butterfly is at risk of disappearing forever. As many as a billion of the iconic black and orange butterflies once traveled 2,500 miles from Mexico, through the Eastern and Midwestern United States, to Canada and back. This year, however, the winter population of monarchs in Mexico numbered only 33 million individuals. Another group of monarchs, the west-of-the-Rockies population that winters in California, is also in steep decline.

The plight of the monarchs is just one of the stark consequences stemming from the industrialization of the U.S. food system. Monarch populations began to decline in the late 1990s, about the same time that biotech giant Monsanto introduced genetically modified (GM) corn and soybeans. According to scientists, this link is no coincidence, but a consequence of the skyrocketing herbicide use spurred by the popularity of GM crops. On Nov. 4, voters in Oregon and Colorado will have an opportunity to speak up for monarchs — and for increased transparency in the U.S. food system — as both states consider bills that require the labeling of genetically modified ingredients in food.

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