Saving Monarch Butterflies. Get rid of the Roundup

Monarch butterflies are dependent upon milkweed as their primary food source. As butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) has been systematically eradicated from the landscape through the use of Roundup and crops resistant to Roundup, monarch butterfly populations have decreased dramatically.

Reports from the World Wildlife Fund and numerous other research studies indicate that the monarch butterfly population is at its lowest point in more than 20 years. According to the studies the primary reason monarch butterflies are disappearing is the effects of Roundup and the use of Roundup resistant crops. In their winter habitat near Mexico City, monarch butterflies covered only 1.65 hectares in 2013, down from 44.5 hectares in 1996...a stunning collapse.

butterfly weed and monarch butterflies

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is vital to the reproduction cycle of monarch butterflies.

Monsanto & Roundup
Monsanto introduced Roundup in the 1970's as a broad-spectrum herbicide (Monsanto also developed Agent Orange). In the mid-1990's Monsanto brought so-called 'Roundup Ready' crops to American farmers. The one-two punch of Roundup and strains of plants resistant to Roundup proved an unbeatable combination for farmers desperate to increase yield. The problem is that it also changed the ecology of the landscape so drastically that the monarch butterfly population is in full retreat.

Farmers can plant crops that are not susceptible to the effects of Roundup, giving them the ability to spray comprehensively to kill anything not Roundup Ready. Corn, sorghum, canola, and soy are a few examples of Roundup Ready crops developed by Monsanto. Milkweed is not roundup ready.

We are subject to extensive regulation affecting our seed biotechnology and agricultural products and our research and manufacturing processes, which affects our sales and profitability.
- Monsanto 2013 Annual Report

The above quote seems to suggest that the primary concern Monsanto has with environmental regulations is how it affects the bottom-line. Regarding conservation efforts Tom Helscher, Monsanto Director of Corporate Affairs, noted that "Conservation approaches will need to balance society's interest in supporting [the] monarch with society's need to improve productivity in agriculture through improved weed and pest management."

Asclepias tuberosa

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) in the landscape.

Developing more technology to answer the pressures of rapid human population growth and declining resources is simply treating symptoms without providing a cure...all for a profit.

Aldo Leopold observed that human beings alone can mourn the death of another species. We also are alone in our ability to cause the extinction of other species. Here is a true story. The man credited with developing Roundup (Glyphosate) is a guy named John Franz. He has been nominated to the National Inventor's Hall of Fame and has over 800 patents to his name. Mr. Franz has won the National Medal of Technology, numerous other awards, and has two scholarships (both from Monsanto) in his name. Yet...does he ever wonder that his legacy may include the eventual extinction of the monarch butterfly?

Make a difference with the choices we make...eliminating Roundup from our gardens is good for us on a micro- and macro-scale.

  • We can choose to never allow Roundup in our own gardens again. Monsanto sells around $1 billion worth of Roundup per year.  The American people can affect Monsanto's sales and profitability in a meaningful way by rejecting Roundup.
  • We can choose to include native plants in our gardens, especially butterfly weed and other plants attractive to butterflies.

Learn More:
Monarch Watch
The Nature Conservancy & monarch butterfly decline
Washington Post & monarch butterflies disappearing

About Barrie

Barrie earned both his Bachelor's (1990) and Master's (2006) degrees in landscape architecture from the University of Georgia. His favorite plant is the oakleaf hydrangea.