Tag Archives | Biodiversity

Monsanto Crops Pushing Monarch Butterfly to ‘Verge of Extinction’

A monarch butterfly on butterflyweed, a type of milkweed, at the Lenoir Preserve Nature Center in Yonkers, New York. (Photo: Don Sutherland/flickr/cc)

A monarch butterfly on butterflyweed, a type of milkweed, at the Lenoir Preserve Nature Center in Yonkers, New York. (Photo: Don Sutherland/flickr/cc)

Deirdre Fulton writes at Common Dreams:

Herbicide-resistant genetically modified crops have brought the iconic monarch butterfly to the brink of extinction, according to a new report presented by the Center for Food Safety to Congress on Thursday.

The report, Monarchs in Peril (pdf), is the most comprehensive look yet at how Monsanto’s ‘Roundup Ready’ crops have helped decimate the monarch population, which has declined by 90 percent in the past 20 years.

“This report is a wake-up call. This iconic species is on the verge of extinction because of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crop system,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at Center for Food Safety. “To let the monarch butterfly die out in order to allow Monsanto to sell its signature herbicide for a few more years is simply shameful.”

As Common Dreams has reported before, and the new study makes abundantly clear, a critical factor in the orange-and-white butterflies’ decline is the loss of host plants for larvae in their main breeding habitat, the Midwestern Corn Belt.

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The Sixth Extinction Is Here — And It’s Our Fault

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If it’s sounds serious, it is. The Sixth Extinction is a very real and massive loss of biodiversity on Earth, happening right now, reports James Temple at re/code:

The Earth appears to be in the early stages of the Sixth Extinction, the latest in a series of mass biodiversity losses that have punctuated the history of life on the planet, according to a paper published in Science this week.

The defining characteristic of the current round — the latest since the dinosaurs disappeared about 65 million years ago — seems to be driven mostly by the actions of humankind. We’re steadily encroaching on the habitat of millions of species while fundamentally altering the environment.

More than 320 terrestrial vertebrates have become extinct since 1500, according to the researchers at Stanford University. Surviving species have declined in abundance by about 25 percent, particularly devastating the ranks of large animals like elephants, rhinoceroses and polar bears.

And it’s only likely to get worse. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changereport in 2007 predicts that an increase of 3.5 degrees Celsius, within the range of scientistic forecasts for 2100, could wipe out 40 to 70 percent of the species assessed so far…

[continues at re/code]

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Food Ark: Will Seed Banks Save Our Sources of Food?

“Experts estimate that we have lost more than half of the world’s food varieties over the past century”. Charles Siebert writes in National Geographic:

Svalbard Vault Mountain (Cutaway). Illustration: Global Crop Diversity Trust

Svalbard Vault Mountain (Cutaway). Illustration: Global Crop Diversity Trust

A crisis is looming: To feed our growing population, we’ll need to double food production. Yet crop yields aren’t increasing fast enough, and climate change and new diseases threaten the limited varieties we’ve come to depend on for food. Luckily we still have the seeds and breeds to ensure our future food supply — but we must take steps to save them.

Six miles outside the town of Decorah, Iowa, an 890-acre stretch of rolling fields and woods called Heritage Farm is letting its crops go to seed. It seems counterintuitive, but then everything about this farm stands in stark contrast to the surrounding acres of neatly rowed corn and soybean fields that typify modern agriculture. Heritage Farm is devoted to collecting rather than growing seeds.

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