Autism, Glyphosate Herbicide, and Snopes

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Is there a link between Glyphosate Herbicide and autism as Dr. Stephanie Seneff states? What about the Snopes article refuting her claim?

Dr. Seneff’s Claim

Health Impact News reported on Dr. Seneff’s statement, “At a [recent] conference, in a special panel discussion about GMOs, she took the audience by surprise when she declared, ‘At today’s rate, by 2025, one in two children will be autistic’” (1.) According to the article, “She noted that the side effects of autism closely mimic those of glyphosate toxicity, and presented data showing a remarkably consistent correlation between the use of Roundup on crops (and the creation of Roundup-ready GMO crop seeds) with rising rates of autism.”

Snopes’ Criticism

Snopes refuted the article by saying, “What the claim seemed to hinge on largely was a correlation/causation fallacy: Because [unclear activity involving glyphosate] occurred, a corresponding rise in autism diagnoses must be due to that unspecified issue with glyphosate…Without peer-reviewed reproducible research, any number of factors can be blamed for what looks like a rise in autism rates” (2.)

Snopes is accurate in that correlation does not prove causation. A rise in autism and the use of glyphosate herbicide simultaneously, does not mean that one caused the other.

However, this was not the full basis for Dr. Seneff’s claim.

As my mother used to say, “You don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” Just because correlation does not prove causation, doesn’t mean we should disregard Dr. Seneff’s findings.

Snopes is inaccurate when they stated, “No autism spikes near agricultural facilities were described, nor was any definitive causative link at all cited by the article (and presumably, Seneff) to back up the purported link between glyphosate and autism rates anywhere other than the imaginations of those making the claim” (2.)

Abundant Reason For Concern

In fact, Health Impact News clearly cited a study which revealed, “…pregnant women living near farms where pesticides are applied have a 60% increased risk of children having an autism spectrum disorder” (1.) Again, I caution that correlation does not prove causation; but is there a possibility that this is not mere coincidence? Of course, there is.

Combine that study with symptoms of autism being quite similar to symptoms of high levels of glyphosate; and in my opinion, there is abundant reason for concern.

Further studies are needed to determine the relationship between the two. Yes, “peer-reviewed reproducible research” must be conducted to ensure the reliability of the results.

Bias

I found the following quotes from Snopes biased:

  • “Both the article and Seneff’s biography mention work with the group AutismOne, a group of parents (not scientists) who’ve espoused the fervent belief autism is caused not by genetic factors but environmental contaminants” (2.)

Again, let’s not “throw the baby out with the bath water”. I am not familiar enough with AutismOne to offer support or criticism. However, parents live with the effects of autism 24/7. They, more than anyone, want to find answers and help for their children. A large group of parents believe autism is caused by environmental factors. So let’s conduct research accordingly.

  • “…nor was any definitive causative link at all cited by the article (and presumably, Seneff) to back up the purported link between glyphosate and autism rates anywhere other than the imaginations of those making the claim” (2.)

There is no justification for this condescension and indignity towards parents and Dr. Seneff. In fact, this attitude is similar to the dangerous, archaic myth, accepted and perpetuated by science from the 1950’s – 1970’s, that autism was caused by mothers who did not bond with their children (3.) Let me be clear: I love science, but it is not infallible.

Continued Bias and CDC

  • “Both Seneff and AutismOne appear to reject the accepted findings of science on the heretofore not fully understood causes of autism, namely in terms of genetics. The claim also deviates from mainstream science on whether autism is truly more prevalent or whether diagnostic criteria and awareness have caused the increase in the number of children diagnosed with the disorder each year. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) explained in a March 2014 autism surveillance summary it was difficult to rule out improved diagnostics as a factor in a perceived increase in autism across populations of children: ‘The global prevalence of autism has increased twentyfold to thirtyfold since the earliest epidemiologic studies were conducted in the late 1960s and early 1970s. At that time, prevalence estimates from European studies were one in 2,500 children in the population, and by the 2000s prevalence estimates from large surveys were 1%-2% of all children. Although the underlying reasons for the apparent prevalence changes are difficult to study empirically, select studies suggest that much of the recent prevalence increase is likely attributable to extrinsic factors such as improved awareness and recognition and changes in diagnostic practice or service availability’” (2.)

Statistics show prevalence of autism in the United States during the early 70’s at one in 10,000 (4.) Why did the CDC quote the lesser amount from the European studies? The CDC states that they used “select studies”. They selected these studies on what basis?

Think About This

Before the changes in diagnostic criteria, children were usually misdiagnosed with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and psychosis (3.) If the rise in prevalence of autism is caused by those changes, the prevalence of mental illness would decrease. But it hasn’t. In fact, it continues to rise. The article, Anatomy of an Epidemic: Psychiatric Drugs and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America states, “Over the past 50 years, there has been an astonishing increase in severe mental illness in the United States (5.)

References:

  1. www.healthimpactnews.com/2014/mit-researcher-glyphosate-herbicide-will-cause-half-of-all-children-to-have-autism-by-2025/
  2. www.snopes.com/medical/toxins/glyphosate.asp
  3. www.pbs.org/pov/refrigeratormothers/fridge/
  4. www.tacanow.org/news/1-in-88-or-1-in-50-which-autism-rate-will-prevail/
  5. www.ingentaconnect.com/content/springer/ehss/2005/00000007/00000001/art00003

4 Comments


  1. // Reply

    Very good article. I love the way you presented “both sides.” To me it’s a “no brainer.” I don’t know enough to know for sure it is causes autism or not, but I’m smart enough to figure out (even without researching) that it isn’t good for us to eat. 🙂


    1. // Reply

      Oh, Debbie, I hear you! The lack of common sense in the world today is staggering. I know, I sound like my father! But it’s so true!


  2. // Reply

    As for the pesticides applied on the farms and the increase in autism cases, has it been specified which pesticides were used? Most conventional farms would use a cocktail of pesticides, not just glyhosate. So to me, this doesn’t really support Seneff’s claims at all. There should be a logical explanation for a causal relationship between autism and glyphosate and that has never been presented. If it is at all related to pesticides, it is much more likely to be linked to insecticides rather than to glyphosate, a herbicide that kills plants, not animals. http://time.com/4313156/mosquito-spraying-autism-pesticides/


    1. // Reply

      Thank you for your comment. You are right in that the article on pesticides, by itself, is not enough support for Dr. Seneff’s claims.

      However, when put together with the statement, “She noted that the side effects of autism closely mimic those of glyphosate toxicity…,” there is reason for concern.

      One thing is certain: there is great need for more research!

I would love to hear from you!