Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Decline of Bees and Monarch Butterfiles Linked to Industrial Agriculture

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There have been a number of new reports about the link between the decline of key insects and industrial agriculture.  One report links the increase of genetically modified crops to the decline of the monarch butterfly.  Milkweed, the preferred monarch butterfly nursery plant, is in rapid decline in the midwest due to the introduction of genetically modified plant crops that can withstand herbicide applications.  The genetically modified crops survive and the remaining plants, including milkweed, die.  Thus, as spraying of herbicide increases,  the monarch butterfly decreases.  Over the last decade, there has been nearly a 60% reduction in milkweed plants in the midwest with a startling 81 percent decrease in monarch egg production.

The New York Times recently highlighted research that demonstrated that low levels of pesticides impedes bee brain function making it difficult for them to find their way home.  Such changes lead to increased bee mortality.  Other research demonstrates that low levels of pesticides lead to lower food production by bumblebees. 

The problem as I see it is that we have divorced the production of food from ethics.  In many cases, the means of production are out of the hands of individual farmers.  As highlighted in the film, King Corn, most farmers are heavily reliant on the seed, fertilizer, and pesticide companies in a compex economic system that takes control of agriculture away from farmers and places it in the hands of large agribusinesses.  Because of this, the farmer, who may be concerned about the bee and the monarch is unable to change practices that damage these insects.

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