The growing use of genetically modified (GM) crops in the US has led the Monarch butterfly , once common across the country, close to ending up on the endangered species list.
The scientists behind a petition that asked for including the species in the list of threatened species said that many crops are altered to be resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide which kills milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s only source of food.
The herbicide is so successful that milkweed plants have virtually disappeared in mid-Western corn and soybean fields, and Monarch butterflies have effectively lost a Texas-sized chunk of their habitat.
“That loss is so staggering that in human-population terms it would be like losing every living person in the United States except those in Florida and Ohio,” Tierra Curry, senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, was quoted as saying in the Live Science.
The Center for Biological Diversity and other advocacy groups had asked the US government to include Monarch butterflies in the endangered species list by filing a legal petition in August 2014.
Over the next year, the US Fish and Wildlife Service will determine whether the species deserves the federal protections that come with being listed an endangered or threatened species.
The numbers of the Monarch butterfly have fallen by 90 percent over the past two decades.
The figure has fallen to just 35 million last winter from a huge 1 billion in the mid-90s.