Where have all the butterflies gone? Remember years back when they were all over the place? You just don't see as many any more.

The monarch butterfly was the most common here in New Jersey, at least based on my recollection. Many readers know the monarch, they are orange and black and each autumn that used to travel up to 3000 miles from Canada to Mexico. Since they can't fly that quickly, the amazing little animals relied on air currents to travel across the continent.

I wonder if something happened along the way? Now I understand that perhaps, something has happened.

You see, monarchs feed on one plant, called the Milkweed. Milkweed is often located in fields and pastures. Ironically, it is the exclusive diet which may have reduced the monarch population. Which may be why I don't see them any longer.

It appears that scientists have engineered some corn plants so they are now resistant to pests that feed on the corn. As a result of this bio-engineering, the corn produces a toxin that is fatal to moths and butterflies. Apparently some of the poison has blown onto Milkweed, causing monarch kills.

Experiments from Cornell University have demonstrated that this poison does kill monarch caterpillars. Studies show that many monarchs die after poison consumption. Of those who live, they tend to grow much slower.

Groups are now seeking to ban genetically engineered corn that kills monarchs. The Friends of the Earth and other national organizations have already taken the position that this man made corn should be banned. They tend to favor better product labeling so consumers can make informed choices. They also favor increased testing of all bio- engineered crops to prevent the creation of new problems similar to those relating to the monarchs.

You probably have heard many objections to bio-engineered crops. But little information concerning the alleged detriments has been made available for public consumption. This appears to be one good example of what happens when we alter nature. At least when we alter nature without sufficient advanced testing. Changes to one piece of nature, even subtle changes, may lead to unfortunate irreversible consequences. This is so because nature is interdependent.

Of course, if we bio-engineer corn so that it is more resistant to corn pests, corn growers may realize greater profits. There is nothing wrong with enhancing profits.

But when did we all have a chance to vote on the fate of the monarch? I wasn't asked, and I suppose you were not either. Today it is monarch butterflies. What will be sacrificed in the name of profit tomorrow?

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