Adult Monarch on milkweed I planted in my yard. Photo: Sally Kneidel
was very sad that California’s Proposition 37 failed to pass in the Nov
6 election. The proposition would have required labeling of all
genetically-modified foods and would have prohibited "all-natural"
labeling of such foods. We desperately need government action regarding
GMOs and I was hopeful this was the beginning. Well, it is a beginning
in a way, because 46.9% of California voters voted to pass the
Proposition. It probably would’ve passed, if not for the fact that the
corporations profiting from genetic engineering spent five times more
money on the vote than those who support labeling. Those corporations
(e.g.Monsanto, Dow) spent about a million dollars a day, from early
October until election day, on a media blitz of false and misleading
claims directed at voters.
70% of our processed foods contain GMOs
U.S. is one of the very few industrialized nations that hasn't either
banned GMOs or required labeling. It’s a symptom of the control that
corporations have over our government, through lobbying and campaign
contributions. Because of this financial and political clout, the
corporations behind GMOs are able to keep U.S. shoppers in the dark
about the contents of the food on our grocery store shelves. Up to 85%
of U.S. corn, 91% of soybeans, and 95% of sugar beets are now
genetically modified. According to the Center for Food Safety, 70% of
processed foods in supermarkets now contain genetically-modified
ingredients, yet are not labeled as having them. Human-health risks from
GMOs include immune suppression and cancer.
Wild plants and animals threatened
to the planet are even more frightening for me. The uncontrolled
dispersal of the engineered genes in agricultural plants threatens wild
plant and animal species with contamination of their own genetic
material and possible extinction. This sounds dramatic, but if you doubt
it, read the Center for Food Safety’s “ Monsanto vs. U.S. Farmers ".
– the problems with genetically-modified foods are not new. I’ve known
about GMOs and the corporate control of their development and
proliferation for some time. I’ve known about the industry’s appalling
disregard of anything other than corporate profits. My daughter Sadie
and I wrote about that topic in our 2008 book, .
But I almost choked when I heard...
just recently learned something new about an unexpected victim of the
genetic-engineering industry. Monarch butterflies. Last summer, while
researching a 2nd edition of my book "",
I began talking to monarch experts who are involved in the conservation
of this magnificent butterfly, a species that weighs less than a paper
clip but migrates 2000 miles every autumn! They migrate farther than any
other insect, farther than many migratory birds. Through this research,
I learned that monarchs are declining, and when I found out why, I
almost gagged. Monsanto!!! Monsanto has wiped out much of the milkweed
in the Midwest that these butterflies lay their eggs on. Not
intentionally, but as a by-product of Monsanto's widely used
agricultural herbicide “Round-Up.” Milkweed grows best in disturbed
areas, such as in and around crop-fields. Farmers can and do now spray
Round-Up directly on their maturing crops. Before, herbicides had to be
used sparingly and before crops sprouted, because herbicides killed
crops as well as unwanted plants.
But since Monsanto has
genetically modified a huge proportion of crop seeds used in the U.S. to
withstand their own herbicide, Round-Up, those GM crops are now immune
to this particular herbicide. So Round-Up is sprayed in abundance,
throughout the growing season. It kills all other plants in the
vicinity, including milkweed.
And scientists say this is the
primary reason monarchs are declining, due to loss of their "host plant"
milkweed, which they must have for egg-laying and caterpillar growth.
very disturbing. And yet Monsanto marches on, squashing Proposition 37
and any other opposition to their dangerous domination of American
What's to be done?
Write your legislators about GMOs and Monsanto. Will it do any good? I don't know. Contact the Center for Food Safety and ask what you can do.
One thing you can do for sure is to plant milkweed.
monarch scientists and educators have created monarch websites for
teachers, students, and citizens who’d like to get involved in monarch
conservation, by planting milkweed and nectar plants and by monitoring,
tagging, reporting data to monarch scientists, and more. These are
great websites, great projects - for families, classrooms, individuals.
Check them out! Journey North Monarch Watch Monarch Larva Monitoring Project Monarch Teacher Network