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Widespread Use of Monsanto's Weed-Killer Glyphosate Is Harming Monarch Butterflies

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With monarch butterfly populations rapidly dwindling, a conservation organization on Monday asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement tougher rules for the weed killer glyphosate - first marketed under the brand name Roundup - to save America's most beloved insect from further decline.

In a petition, the Natural Resources Defense Council argued that current uses of glyphosate are wiping out milkweed, the only plant upon which monarch caterpillars feed. The loss of milkweed is having a devastating effect on the life cycles of the large, fragile orange-and-black butterflies, which migrate through the United States, Canada and Mexico.

It takes several generations of the insect scientists know as Danaus plexippus to make the round trip because each monarch lives only a few weeks in the summer.

Since federal glyphosate rules were last updated a decade ago, its use has spiked tenfold to 182 million pounds a year, largely due to the introduction and popularity of corn and soybeans genetically modified to resist the herbicide, the petition says.

"The tenfold increase in the amount of glyphosate being used corresponds with huge losses of milkweed and the staggering decline of the monarch," Sylvia Fallon, an NRDC senior scientist, said in an interview. "We are seeking new safeguards desperately needed to allow enough milkweed to grow."

California's monarch population has fallen an estimated 80% over the last 15 years due to urbanization, drought, weed abatement programs and pesticides, according to the nonprofit Xerces Society, a Portland, Ore.-based organization dedicated to conservation of invertebrates.


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