The recent New York Times editorial, which argues against labeling genetically modified foods (GMOs), is shocking in its shortsightedness. The thrust of the argument is that GMOs pose no risk to consumers; the editorial reads, “there is no reliable evidence that genetically modified foods now on the market pose any risk to consumers.”
But the previous day, the Times published an article noting a startling decline in monarch butterflies — the most in recent decades — which the article attributes to changing weather patterns and changed farming practices. More specifically, the article quotes experts who say that the decline is a result of “the explosive increase in American farmland planted in soybean and corn genetically modified to tolerate herbicides.” The article goes on to say:
“The American Midwest’s corn belt is a critical feeding ground for monarchs, which once found a ready source of milkweed growing between the rows of millions of acres of soybean and corn. But the ubiquitous use of herbicide-tolerant crops has enabled farmers to wipe out the milkweed, and with it much of the butterflies’ food supply.”
Much like bees, the monarch butterfly provides essential pollination for many of our food crops — this pollination is the foundation of our food supply. According to a study by researchers at UC Berkeley, one third of the world’s food supply is dependent on pollinators. Chip Taylor, director of the conservation group Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas said that, “If we pull the monarchs out of the system, we’re really pulling the rug out from under a whole lot of other species.”
To say that GMO crops pose no threat to consumers when their use is clearly debilitating this vital butterfly species, is a careless misrepresentation of the long-term effects these novel crops are having on our food systems and perhaps the very foundation of a secure food future. With greater foresight we must more thoughtfully connect the dots between harm to our environment and harm to ourselves.
This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post