Monarchs Across Georgia Website Statements Rebuttal
November, 2011

Monarchs Across Georgia website, as well as other sites on the internet, present these claims against commercial butterfly rearing.

These statements and claims are not based in scientific fact, studies or proof. The IBBA contacted a recognized expert and authority for population genetics, to study these claims and provide answers based in science.

Dr. Bruce Walsh, professor of Population Genetics, gave IBBA scientific answers to the claims made against commercial butterfly farming. It is important to remember that over the last ten years, noted butterfly experts have made claims against butterfly farming that were scientifically unsubstantiated, and one by one, most of these concerns have been withdrawn.

Below in blue text are the claims as presented on the Monarchs Across Georgia website. 

Below those statements we provide Dr. Walsh's responses in red text, followed by his credentials. 

Monarchs Across Georgia website stated:

MAG strongly discourages participants from purchasing or releasing any commercially reared butterflies. Commercial rearing can result in genetically inferior organisms, reduction of genetic diversity, introduction of disease, inbreeding, as well as the introduction of species and genetics not native to the area.

MAG does not promote hand pairing to rear successive generations of butterflies as this also encourages inbreeding and genetically inferior species. It may also result in the release of monarchs at times when they are not normally found in Georgia.

Additionally, MAG facilitators should make every attempt to obtain local larvae for workshops. In the event local larvae are not available, hand-paired larvae or commercially purchased larvae may be used solely for the sake of providing hands-on education to workshop participants.

Such butterflies should not be distributed to participants or released into the wild. If you must choose a commercial supplier, make every effort to purchase from a supplier with the least objectionable rearing practices.

Dr. Bruce Walsh Replied:

As a professor of Population Genetics, I've been asked to comment on several of the genetics-related comments on the "MONARCHS ACROSS GEORGIA WEBSITE".  While the statements are well-meaning, they are simply false, so no need to be concerned about these specific issues.

The main theme seems to revolve around the suggestion that commercial rearing can produce "genetic inferior" individuals in some sense, and if these cross with the general population that these "bad genotypes" will spread.  Nothing could be farther from the truth

If a deleterious gene is introduced into a population, it is very quickly removed.  Hence, even if commercial rearing did result in the release of genetically inferior individuals (which does not appear to be the case), these are quickly removed with no harm to the population. 

This is simple basic population genetics (migration/selection balance theory).

In particular, "commercial rearing can result in:

1.      genetically inferior organisms

Nope.  The concern here is inbreeding (I assume).  However, if we cross an inbred individual to a wild out-bred one, the offspring are NOT inbred, and hence of no lower viability.  This is a classic result from Pop Gen that out-crossing an inbred individual completely removes any inbreeding depression in their offspring.

2.     reduction of genetic diversity

Nope, If anything, a very slight increase in diversity.

4.     inbreeding

See (1) above

5.     introduction of species and genetics not native to the area

An issue if non-local species are used, but not an issue of organism with very wide migration patterns (such as eastern monarch) are used, as these all mix in a single gene pool in Mexico each migration, effectively removing any genetic population structure.

6.     hand pairing to rear successive generations of butterflies encourages inbreeding and genetically-inferior species."

See (1) above and general introductory comments.

Dr. Bruce Walsh
Professor, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Professor, Public Health
Adjunct Professor Animal Science, Plant Science, Molecular & Cell Biology
Member, Graduate Committees on Applied Mathematics, Genetics (former Chair),
Insect Science, Statistics (former Chair)
University of Arizona.

International Butterfly Breeders Association, Inc.

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