Last week brought a glimmer of hope for the future of the rapidly declining population of monarch butterflies. The Natural Resource Defense Council petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take a tougher stance on use of the weed killer glyphosate, which was first introduced to the market as Roundup.
Though the EPA isn’t due to complete an updated review of rules concerning the use of this pesticide until 2015, the NRDC insists immediate steps need to be taken to restrict the use of the chemical. The current usage of glyphosate is wiping out milkweed, which is the exclusive food source for monarch caterpillars. The effect is devastating on the life cycles of the large black-and-orange butterflies that migrate through the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Not only is milkweed the sole food source for the larvae, they also lay their eggs on the now-scarce plant. The decimation of milkweed communities is associated with an 81 percent decrease from 1999 to 2010 in the production of monarchs in the Midwest and a 65 percent decrease throughout the same time period in Mexico.
According to the petition, it has been more than a decade since the federal government has addressed the usage of glyphosate. Since then, the use of the chemical has soared tenfold to 182 million pounds each year. This spike is largely due to GMO corn and soybeans that Monsanto developed to resist the herbicide.
“The good news is that butterflies are resilient and can rebound quickly,” Sylvia Fallon, an NRDC senior scientist, said in an interview with the LA Times. “All they need is milkweed on which to lay their eggs.”
The petition’s recommendations include restricting or prohibiting the use of glyphosate and other herbicides along roads and power lines, requiring herbicide-free buffer zones around agricultural areas along monarch migratory corridors, and requiring the creation of milkweed-friendly habitat zones where herbicide use is prohibited.
The petition can be viewed in its entirety online.