A GMO is a genetically modified organism which is developed to produce desired effects, such as BT corn, which was bioengineered to resist the European corn borer. The corn borer causes significant damage to corn crops. All corn in Iowa is BT corn, which stands for Bacillus thuringiensis, a bacteria that produces a toxin deadly to the corn borer and, unfortunately, also to butterfly larvae.

Every summer I watch for Monarch butterfly larvae on a patch of milkweed plants in our yard, but I haven’t seen any for years. The Monarch caterpillar is distinctive and beautiful, with yellow, black and white stripes. Thirty years ago when our children were little we used to catch one and watch it go through its larval and chrysalis stage to adulthood. It was a great learning experience for the whole family, and even though our children are all adults now I miss seeing those beautiful caterpillars. At the rate the Monarchs are disappearing I think it is not unreasonable to think they will be extinct in the foreseeable future.

What to do? Obviously we need crops to feed human populations world-wide. But if we could find more eco-friendly ways to do it, so much the better.