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Center for Food Safety Condemns Monsanto’s Monarch Recovery Pledge as Greenwashing

April 06, 2015
Center for Food Safety

April 6, 2015 (Washington, DC)—Center for Food Safety today sharply criticized Monsanto’s announcement that it is giving $4 million toward monarch population restoration. Two decades of the company’s top-selling crop system – Roundup Ready corn and soybeans – has nearly eradicated milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s sole source of food, in cropland in the monarch’s vital Midwest breeding ground.

“Monsanto brought in $15.85 billion in sales last year. This pledge for monarchs equates to only 2 hours’ worth of their sales – hardly a substantial commitment. Regardless of amount, the only way to save monarchs is a major reduction in Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crop systems, which are the leading cause of Monarchs’ threatened extinction,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at Center for Food Safety. “Throwing a pittance of money at the problem is not a real path to survival; this maneuver is an attempt to greenwash Monsanto’s image, nothing more.”  

In August 2014, Center for Food Safety and The Center for Biological Diversity, joined by the Xerces Society and renowned monarch scientist Dr. Lincoln Brower, filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list monarchs as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act and secure mandatory and urgently needed protections for this iconic butterfly and its habitat.

“Listing monarch butterflies as a threatened species is essential to their survival,” added Kimbrell. “An iconic species is on the verge of extinction thanks to genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant crop systems like Roundup Ready. Monsanto is not a part of the solution; they are the problem, unless the company radically changes its business model.”

As documented in Center for Food Safety’s recent report, “Monarchs in Peril,” the butterfly’s dramatic decline is being driven in large part by the widespread planting of genetically engineered crops in the Midwest, where most monarchs are born. The vast majority of genetically engineered crops are made to be resistant to Monsanto’s glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide, a potent killer of milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s only food source. The dramatic surge in Roundup use with Roundup Ready crops has virtually wiped out milkweed plants in Midwestern corn and soybean fields. In the past 20 years it is estimated that these once-common iconic orange and black butterflies may have lost more than 165 million acres of habitat — an area about the size of Texas — including nearly a third of their summer breeding grounds. 

At the same time as Monsanto greenwashes its role in monarch declines, the company plans to introduce additional GE crops that will further threaten monarchs. On deck for Monsanto are their GE dicamba-resistant soybean and cotton varieties, which will be sprayed with both dicamba and glyphosate.  These “next-generation” GE crops will further degrade monarch breeding habitat and kill off other nearby flowing plants used by adult monarchs as nectar sources.

Instead of dramatically escalating herbicide use with GE herbicide-resistant crop systems, CFS supports effective and sustainable weed management techniques that involve little or no use of herbicides.

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