If I had a garden of my own, and didn’t live in urban squalor, I’d plant as many native milkweeds as I could: I find them a beautiful plant, plus I love the majesty of the Monarch Butterfly. Also yet another Monsanto product with devastating effects on our planet…
In recent years amateur conservationists have sought to replenish drastic declines in milkweed, the only plant female monarchs lay eggs on. But the most widely available milkweed for planting, the scientists say, is an exotic species called tropical milkweed — not the native species with which the butterflies evolved. That may lead to unseasonal breeding, putting monarchs at higher risk of disease and reproductive failure.
But in the Midwest, which produces half of Mexico’s wintering monarchs, the scores of wild milkweed species among grasslands and farms are fast disappearing.
Nearly 60 percent of native Midwestern milkweeds vanished between 1999 and 2009, the biologists Karen Oberhauser and John Pleasants reported in 2012 in the journal Insect Conservation and Diversity. The loss coincided with increased applications of the weedkiller Roundup on expanded plantings of corn and soybeans genetically altered to tolerate the herbicide. Meanwhile, monarch reproduction in the Midwest dropped more than 80 percent, as did populations in Mexico.
With the loss of native milkweeds that die in the fall, monarchs are encountering tropical milkweeds that are still thriving.
“There’s this huge groundswell of people planting tropical milkweed, and we don’t know what it’s doing to the butterflies,” said Francis X. Villablanca, a biology professor at California Polytechnic University. “We’re all in a rush to figure it out.”
Dr. Altizer fears that when monarchs encounter lush foliage in the fall, they may become confused, start breeding and stop migrating.
“It’s sad, because people think planting milkweed will help,” she said. “But when milkweed is available during the winter, it changes the butterfly’s behavior.”
Butterfly enthusiasts shouldn’t feel bad for planting tropical milkweed, monarch researchers say. But they should cut the plants back in fall and winter. Or even better, replace them with natives. There are native plant societies across the country that can offer advice.
Lovely. What’s next? Asking ExxonMobile to conduct its own environmental studies for the EPA? Asking G.E. to do its own tax audits for the IRS? We expected better than this from Obama’s administration.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration introduced a pilot project in the Federal Register this month which would allow biotech seed companies to perform their own environmental impact studies of novel seed varieties before deregulation. The USDA’s move seems to be a response to a decision last August by Federal Judge Jeffrey White which banned the planting of genetically modified sugar beets until an environmental study assessed the impact of commercial cultivation. White ruled that the USDA’s approval of the beets violated the National Environmental Policy Act.
Proponents of the USDA’s project believe the decision will make the biotech industry less vulnerable to legal challenges and speed the registration process of new GE crops. “A big deterrent to future lawsuits would be if the USDA were to win some of them,” said Karen Batra, director of communications at Biotechnology Industry Organization, to Capital Press. “The more information the department has, the better case they can make.”
Most recently The Center for Food Safety challenged the USDA’s unregulated approval of GE-alfalfa saying the decision puts organic and conventional farmers at risk. The case is pending.
Organic advocates believe the USDA’s pilot will slow what they believe to be an already ineffective process and encourage more legal challenges.
“There’s virtually no chance, in the current political climate, that the idea of expanding the role of biotech is going to speed up approval,” said Chuck Benbrook, chief scientist for The Organic Center. “The fact of the matter is there are many good reasons not to trust science from Monsanto. Almost inevitably the first assessments carried out under this pilot program will be challenged in court—probably successfully.”
Bill Freese, science policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety, said the USDA’s proposal would make an already poor process worse.
“This decision would give us additional incentive to challenge a seed up for deregulation, subject to other factors,” he said. “We might actually challenge the process itself. This decision seems to go against some pretty basic scientific integrity guidelines. Letting a company do its own assessment is a pretty obvious conflict of interest.”
Wow, didn’t even take a year for the Teabaggers to show their true GOP colors.
Tariff-free Asian paper may seem an unlikely cause for a nonprofit Tea Party group. But it is in keeping with a succession of pro-business campaigns — promoting commercial space flight, palm oil imports and genetically modified alfalfa — that have occupied the Institute for Liberty’s recent agenda.
The Tea Party movement is as deeply skeptical of big business as it is of big government.1Yet an examination of the Institute for Liberty shows how Washington’s influence industry has adapted itself to the Tea Party era. In a quietly arranged marriage of seemingly disparate interests, the institute and kindred groups are increasingly the bearers of corporate messages wrapped in populist Tea Party themes.
In a few instances, their corporate partners are known — as with the billionaire Koch brothers’ support of Americans for Prosperity, one of the most visible advocacy groups. More often, though, their nonprofit tax status means they do not have to reveal who pays the bills.
Mr. Langer would not say who financed his Indonesian paper initiative. But his sudden interest in the issue coincided with a public relations push by Asia Pulp & Paper. And the institute’s work is remarkably similar to that produced by one of the company’s consultants, a former Australian diplomat named Alan Oxley who works closely with a Washington public affairs firm known for creating corporate campaigns presented as grass-roots efforts.
The Tea Party movement is as deeply skeptical of big business as it is of big government.
That’s the talking point anyway. I’d argue the Teabaggers are not that skeptical of big business, because people like the Koch brothers are such big monetary supporters, and if you scratch the surface of any ten randomly selected Teabaggers, you’ll find nine Republicans and one Independent-Leans-Right.
For instance, Monsanto, the enemy of small farmers everywhere on the planet, is a supporter of the Teabaggers
Last year, the two groups also supported the effort by the agribusiness giant Monsanto to ease federal restrictions on its pesticide-resistant alfalfa. (In February, regulators agreed to do so.) Mr. Langer said he decided “to try out our grass-roots method on that, and frame it as a dairy issue and access to affordable food.”
He got a column published in July in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, talking up Monsanto’s product and asking readers to consider the value of bioengineered foods as they “stroll down the aisle of the supermarket.” The institute’s Web site urged members to speak up, and Mr. Langer filed a petition with the Department of Agriculture.
But a close look at that petition illustrates how a “grass-roots” campaign may be something else entirely. He submitted 8,052 comments he said were collected by telephone. The comments, under different names, were identical and began: “I was recently contacted by the Institute for Liberty and asked if I would be willing to lend my voice in support of moving these types of alfalfa to nonregulated status.” The New York Times examined a random sample of 50 names, and found that three of the people were dead when the comments were submitted. Others said they had no idea their names had been used.
“I vaguely remember responding to a survey as to whether or not the affordability of food for my family was important to me,” said Romeyn Jenkins of Iowa. “But that is far different than setting myself up as an authority on specific genetically engineered crops and authorizing my name for submission on form letters.”
and more data from Matt Yglesias:
The question of what, if anything, differentiates a “Tea Partier” from a conventional Republican has attracted a lot of attention over the past year and a half. Research from political scientist Chris Parker sheds light on one aspect of the situation: Tea Partiers are in the grips of apocalyptic fantasies such that “6 percent of non-Tea Party conservatives believe the president is destroying the country versus the 71 percent of Tea Party conservatives who believe this to be true.”
In ordinary times, you might think that an over-the-top grassroots base would be restrained by party elites. But Tea Party millennialism is reinforced, not constrained, by key conservatives. Matt Continetti of the Weekly Standard published a long article this week accusing liberals of “paranoid” dislike of the billionaire Koch brothers, who have emerged as the leading money-men of the American right. But according to Continettit’s own reporting, it’s the Kochs who seem paranoid. David Koch said to Continetti, “He’s the most radical president we’ve ever had as a nation,” he said, “and has done more damage to the free enterprise system and long-term prosperity than any president we’ve ever had.” Koch attributed this to Obama’s admiration for his father, who, he explains “was a hard-core economic socialist in Kenya.”