Why was Roundup herbicide invented? What need did it fill that has made it’s use almost universal in the world of corn and soybean (and now many other farm crops)? Roundup is sprayed on plants that are primarily used to feed our meat-producing animals cheaply. The plants that is is sprayed on have been genetically modified to resist the poisonous effects of the herbicide. All plants that have not been modified are killed, making the soil feed only the desirable plants. It turns out that that feature is also a bug…
Habitat loss has been particularly prominent in the Midwest since the development in the 1990s of corn and soybean crops that have been genetically engineered to be resistant to a popular herbicide, Black says.
“With the advent of “Roundup Ready” – or glyphosate-resistant – corn and soybeans [farmers] have been able to effectively remove that milkweed from 100 million acres of land,” Dr. Black says.
I am certain that milkweed destruction is collateral damage in the war on weeds. It is a weed, it volunteers to grow all over the US, some varieties are poisonous to farm animals, of course these animals wouldn’t intentionally eat it. However, the milkweed is the primary food for the monarch butterfly. Everyone knows the monarch, it is the king of the butterflies.
The monarch butterfly is a terrific messenger of what modern farming is doing to the world. Because the monarch butterfly is known to migrate and then to all fly to a small spot in Mexico it makes it very easy to see the effects of modern farming.
The majestic North American monarch is well known for both its trademark orange and black stripes as well as its epic annual migration from Canada to Mexico. The number of monarchs reaching the wintering grounds in southern Mexico has declined by 90 percent in the past 20 years. The losses have been so pronounced that the US Fish and Wildlife Service is considering listing the iconic butterfly as an endangered species.
Think about it, the herbicide we are spraying all over North America, and exporting to countries far and wide, because it kills everything that has not been lab-modified to resist it, has killed 90% of one kind of insect. There is no reason to not think that it is also killing thousands of other kinds of insects, insects that don’t have the cute and cuddly factor of the butterfly, and whose declining numbers are harder to quantify because they don’t have a huge convention that draws tourists every year.
We are killing the life-sustaining habitat of countless insects, whose value to us are unknown. We are doing this because a field of corn that contains zero weeds is more valuable by a fraction of a cent per acre than one that contains more than one kind of plant. We are doing it because ridiculously cheap corn and soy are justified because we feed it to our meat-producing animals, despite the fact that they are not suited for this food type, and it would kill them in six months time unless we give them drugs to keep them alive while they eat corn and soy.
Almost killing cattle while they are force fed corn is another unintended consequence of trying to modify the natural plan so that our food can be manufactured in a way that is more efficient for us. Killing off all of the honeybees and bumblebees in North America is another example.
Waiting for the government that currently exists in Washington to do anything about this is a fool’s game. If you quit eating food-industrial-complex meats and processed foods you will be doing exactly what needs to be done to rectify this situation. Already people are moving away from processed foods. If we also move away from meat-case meats we will be completing the change that needs to take place to protect the Monarch and all of his natural neighbors in the corn fields of America.
I applaud our government for considering a milkweed superhighway for the butterfly. Losing that animal would be a natural disaster, but the monarch is just the canary in the coal mine, just the most visible symptom of the true natural disaster that we are causing. Planting 1500 miles of milkweed will not protect the anonymous insects that are also a part of the natural order of things. We need to ban roundup the way we banned DDT back in the 70s, but we won’t. Our national government is far more gutless than it was back in the day. We have to do the hard work at the local level. Stop supporting corporate farming, reject their cheap products. Acknowledge the true cost of their cheap meats, they are far to expensive in external costs to keep using them.