A new study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has specified that pesticides/herbicides play a role in killing milk weed, the only plant in which Monarchs will lay their eggs. The EPA has made a public commentary period available at their web site and intends to address at a minimum changes to pesticide label instructions. : http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=EPA-HQ-OPP-2015-0389-0001
There has been considerable public outcry as the Monarch butterfly population has dropped drastically by 90% over the last few years. Previously the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the EPA have avoided addressing the impact of pesticides and herbicides on the species. With the recommendations released from the White House pollinator task force, titled National Pollinator Health Strategy, governmental agencies on the surface appear to be taking a more proactive approach to protect pollinators including the Monarch butterfly. The agency identified a potential action that if implemented may slow the Monarchs’ decline in a document released last week entitled Risk Management Approach to Identifying Options for Protecting the Monarch Butterfly (Monarch Approach document). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is also in the midst of conducting a review of the Monarch butterfly to determine whether the species is eligible for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
EPA’s approach fails to address the fact that the number of Monarchs reaching their winter breeding grounds in Mexico has fallen by 90% in less than 20 years and that this year’s population was the second lowest since surveys began two decades ago.
Environmentalists have blamed the loss of milkweed, for the population decline, due to planting of genetically engineered (GE) crops developed to tolerate repeated herbicide applications. Glyphosate (Roundup) herbicides have been identified as the main threat to Monarchs and milkweed within the genetically engineered agricultural systems.
To minimize the lack of action by the EPA, the agency has claimed that if it were to take regulatory action on one herbicide to protect monarch resources, such a move may implicate other herbicides not subject to the same risk mitigation measures.