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Autism and Glyphosate:

I’m getting a lot of emails about a ridiculous prediction by Stephanie Seneff that “half of all children will be autistic by 2025”. As far as I can tell, this is more of the same as what she was peddling in a 2013 article about glyphosate, and that one was really egregious. You see all these references to “Researchers at MIT Find Glyphosate Killing Everyone!” and the like, but that paper had no original research in it whatsoever – and although it seems to cite everything possible, it manages to miss the most important invalidating evidence. Just so my feelings about it are clear: from everything I can see, Seneff’s views on glyphosate seem to me to be tendentious and shoddily backed up, and do not deserve one-tenth the credit that many people seem to be willing to give her.
The web site that’s pushing this autism figure, in case you’re wondering, also goes on about the “coverup” of the link to the MMR vaccine. This thoroughly discredited (and discreditable) claim tells me all I need to know about them – anyone pushing this line has disqualified themselves, as far as I’m concerned. I’m not going to link to them, and I’m not going to spend more of my vacation time debunking them line by line. That earlier blog post linked to above goes into more detail about just why, but that’s the short answer. This is not “a new study”, these are not “respected researchers”, and this is not “an alarming new development”. This is a load of crap. Far more is known about glyphosate toxicology and pharmacokinetics than you could ever imagine by reading it.

40 comments on “Autism and Glyphosate:”

  1. Barney Featherson says:

    I agree totally. Ditto global warming or whatever the latest moniker they give it. Horseshit.

  2. steve says:

    Boy are you off. Equating the virtually unanimous scientific agreement on global warming with the equally unanimous consensus about the non-existent link between vaccines and autism is like equating the theory of thermodynamics (or “whatever the latest moniker” is) with believing the earth is flat.

  3. So… precisely what would Dr. Seneff need to do at this point for MIT to consider revoking her tenure?

  4. luysii says:

    Sadly, Seneff may be right about 2025, but not for the reason she thinks. When I started neurologic practice in the 70s, autism was quite rare ( 2 – 5/10,000) . The criteria for the diagnosis have loosened to such an extent that perhaps 1/85 may fit the criteria (if you can call them that) for for autism spectrum disorder. Who knows that another 10 years will bring.
    Autism — it’s what you want it to be

  5. @4: in my more cynical moments, I think that the explosion in autism/spectrum diagnoses has mostly been a way for canny parents to game the IEP process to force under-funded and under-staffed schools to direct more resources toward their kids. And put like that, I guess it’s hard to blame them.

  6. InsilicoConsulting says:

    #5, As the parent of a borderline Austism spectrum kid , in India, i can attest it is a real problem and not a tactic of canny parents here :-)The elder one born in 2000 is normal.
    There’s something in our diet or environmental exposure that affects fetal neural development. Maybe not Glyphosate . But does it rule out other pesticides? I recall that we were eating a lot of fruits that regardless of the wash we gave them, they still retained pesticide residue.
    Can bioaccumulation of some pesticides in tissues over a 5-10 yr period not be involved?
    Beyond the increase in number due to access to diagnosis, there is some real cause for increase in numbers and the danger is that we will stop looking for external causes and just focus on genetics and correcting the glutamine/glutamate pathway to “manage” autism.
    A 3 week viral+bacterial URTI during pregnancy, higher maternal age ~35 and epidural were variables in our case. And we always wonder if any of them, other than pesticides are causal.

  7. InsilicoConsulting says:

    #5, As the parent of a borderline Austism spectrum kid , in India, i can attest it is a real problem and not a tactic of canny parents here :-)The elder one born in 2000 is normal.
    There’s something in our diet or environmental exposure that affects fetal neural development. Maybe not Glyphosate . But does it rule out other pesticides? I recall that we were eating a lot of fruits that regardless of the wash we gave them, they still retained pesticide residue.
    Can bioaccumulation of some pesticides in tissues over a 5-10 yr period not be involved?
    Beyond the increase in number due to access to diagnosis, there is some real cause for increase in numbers and the danger is that we will stop looking for external causes and just focus on genetics and correcting the glutamine/glutamate pathway to “manage” autism.
    A 3 week viral+bacterial URTI during pregnancy, higher maternal age ~35 and epidural were variables in our case. And we always wonder if any of them, other than pesticides are causal.

  8. Nick K says:

    #4,5,7: In Britain in the 1950’s and 60’s when I was growing up, a lot of children diagnosed as autistic today would simply have been labelled “retarded” or “educationally subnormal”, or merely odd.

  9. genius says:

    I am wondering how many geniuses are “diagnosed” as autistic and miss the education opportunity they deserve.

  10. barney Featherson says:

    @ steve
    no error bars plus the need for grant money equals global warming is a pile of crap. why did they have to change the name to climate change? because the climate changes every attosecond.

  11. steve says:

    Barney, it’s way off topic but your just totally wrong. There’s a reason why the consensus statements from the National Academy of Sciences, the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union and the American Association for the Advancement of Science all agree. There’s a reason why 2014 was the warmest year on record. People moved from calling it global warming to climate change because the Rush Limbaugh nitwits couldn’t understand that just because it was snowing where they lived didn’t mean that the GLOBAL temperature was changing. They also couldn’t understand that there is a difference between gradual climate change over millions of years and an abrupt an extreme change over 100 years. Of course, they probably also think it’s perfectly healthy to smoke – after all, what do scientists know?

  12. Patrick says:

    > This is not “a new study”, these are not “respected researchers”, and this is not “an alarming new development”. This is a load of crap. Far more is known about glyphosate toxicology and pharmacokinetics than you could ever imagine by reading it.
    Thank you very much for the unequivocal soundbite, Derek. Does a power of good. Now kick back and enjoy the break.

  13. barney Featherson says:

    Steve
    Good discussion. But the three or so associations you cite are all dependent on grant money-hence they will not cite global cooling for fear of losing their funding. Plus I believe that the global temperature has been decreasing for the past 15 years. However I am not a big proponent of global temperature-I mean what does that really mean. I think George Carlin summarized it best in one of his routines. I know you will say that it is just George Carlin but you should listen to it. Google it. If you don’t agree it is still very funny and is an intelligent commentary on how little we peons affect the huge Mother Earth.

  14. Robert says:

    Barney — I think your comments are (probably unintentionally) lending credibility to Seneff and her claims. The nonsense you’re spouting makes Seneff look brilliant.
    Much as I appreciated the comedy of Carlin, he has not been with us for some time. And he was no scientist.

  15. steve says:

    No, global temperature has not been decreasing for the last 15 years. There was a spike 15 years ago so if you take that one time point and use that as your comparator you can artificially make it look like there has been a cooling trend. But the fact is that the slope of the graph has consistently been upwards even though there are spikes and troughs in any given year. You can always pick and choose data points to try and say whatever you want but if you’re honest (unlike the Limbaugh nitwits) you look at the trend for the whole data set. I’m not sure where Rush got his Ph.D. but it’s ridiculous to take his word and dismiss all the professional societies as liars who are only interested in getting grant money. Still, if you don’t believe them then look at Standard & Poor that just came out with a report about the adverse effects of global warming. Look at the city of Norfolk that just brought in Dutch advisors to build moats because the sea level has risen so much in recent years that the city is afraid it will be flooded soon. Look at the Pentagon that just said it agreed with the CNA report that global warming is a national security threat. Or just listen to Limbaugh’s luddites.

  16. Vicki says:

    I saw something recently that suggested third-trimester exposure to air pollution (specifically small particles, not carbon monoxide or other gases) as a risk factor for autism. That’s one which could easily affect a child and not their older or younger siblings.

  17. Insilicoconsulting says:

    Nick,
    My child is almost normal. So borderline that he falls into what germans even today would call a “difficult” child.
    He is super at pattern recognition e.g. chess at age 6, can read entire storybooks fast. Yet hand flapping, echolalia, delayed speaking and socialization do set him apart. He is not emotionally deficient. Normal there too. Goes to the school for normal children those interactions have made a lot of difference!
    Pollution in INdia may have something to do . Possibly.
    On a side note, yes, Carlin was brilliant

  18. Peter Olins says:

    Hi “Dr Memory”, as far as I can tell, Stephanie Seneff is not on the faculty of MIT, but is works on artificial intelligence in the Computer Science Department.
    Methinks that artificial intelligence has a long way to go before substituting for the old-fashioned kind.

  19. barney Featherson says:

    Steve
    I guess we just have to agree to diagree. Anyway, I enjoyed the discussion. I guess we will know in 50 years. I will not be around to see the result.

  20. Secondaire says:

    Thank you for this, Derek – I’ve seen this baloney hawked all over various social media sites this week. It looks like good old-fashioned appeal-to-“authority” fallacy run amok here.

  21. Kaleberg says:

    I remember an old article, from 1910 or so, extrapolating that 100% of all American women over the age of 16 were going to be telephone operators by the 1950s. It was a pretty frightening prospect.
    Does Seneff have a date for us being 100% autistic? If everyone is autistic, what happens to the rest of us? (That’s an example of nonsense.) I grant you articles like Seneff’s do make us think.

  22. Gordonjcp says:

    I guess glyphosate could have an effect on your child’s mental development in utero, if you drank enough of it.
    When I was at school I was diagnoses as being somewhat towards the Asperger end of the autistic spectrum. What of course no-one really takes into account in these things is that I may be uncommunicative and unsympathetic, preferring my own company to that of others and so on because I just don’t want to care about your crap… 🙂

  23. Mike says:

    @9 (genius)
    And I wonder how many “geniuses” are NOT diagnosed as autistic and miss the education opportunity they deserve. I wonder how poor my son’s situation would have been if he had not been diagnosed early.
    Diagnosis is just a label that helps with getting therapy and support (and funding) which is otherwise unavailable.

  24. Mike says:

    @luysii
    Diagnosis is just a label that helps with getting therapy and support (and funding) which is otherwise unavailable.
    What therapies for autism were available in the 70s? The most successful therapeutic approaches (but let’s not discuss it here – I don’t want to provoke a row;) were developed in late 70s and early 80s. Before that, even when you diagnosed autism, you couldn’t offer much help, right?
    The broadening (and deepening) of diagnostic definition of autism is in my opinion partly a result of availability of more successful therapies.

  25. Chest Rockwell says:

    Diagnostic substitution is a compelling explanation for, at minimum, a substantial portion of the increase in autism rates:
    http://depletedcranium.com/autism_and_mr_cht.jpg
    Reference:
    Shattuck. 2006. Pediatrics.

  26. dave w says:

    As others said, “diagnostic substitution” is most likely the main factor behind the reported “epidemic of autism”: almost unquestionably, many of those who are now cagegorized as “autistic” would have been given labels such as “emotionally disturbed”, “mentally retarded”, “atypical social development”, etc. – for one thing, it’s only relatively recently that “autism”, as such, has been listed as a particular condition which qualifies for “special education” assistance. (Give folks a category that seems to fit and they will use it.)
    If anything, there’s evidently a socially-transmitted “epidemic” (complete with observable case-clusters!) of autism-diagnosing behavior among “mental health” practicioners.
    (Aside from that, the statistics promoted by the commercial fund-raising organization widely referred to by actual autistic people as “Autism $peaks” – 1 in 85, now 1 in 55 – seem to stretch credibility: is it even the case that almost 2% of kids these days have some sort of clinically significant mental disturbance – “autism” in particular, or otherwise – in the first place?)

  27. Peter@19: I don’t think you get to work in the AI lab without being on the faculty at MIT. In any case, her professional home page, hosted at csail.mit.edu, confirms that she is on faculty there.

  28. @29 Dr. Memory and @19 Peter: There are a lot of staff scientists at MIT who are not tenure-track faculty, and who aren’t faculty at all. Seneff would seem to be in that category. Her title is “Senior Research Scientist.” But you’re really asking what she’d have to do to get fired, and I can’t answer that.

  29. Matthew@30: does MIT let non-faculty researchers supervise masters/phd theses? Her csail page claims that she does this.

  30. Mrs. Bob says:

    18. Insilicoconsulting
    Look up Sensory Processing Disorder. Or Sensory Integration issues. Your son may not be autistic but he may have sensory issues with a tendency toward being co-morbid with autism. however sensory is also considered to be a separate issue from Autism. Maybe the answer for you is in that direction.

  31. Mike says:

    @32: sensory processing disorder is a controversial diagnosis. It was introduced in the 70s by Jane Ayres, have you read any of her books? Her “Sensory integration and the child” is possibly the most unscientific psychology book I’ve ever attempted to read, a mixture of trivial observations and unsubstantiated far-reaching hypotheses without even pretending to put her therories to test. Complete load of crap. Whether you like this approach or not, it did not stand the test of time. A current (2014) review of sensory processing/integration therapies states that these therapies are not effective at all (see doi: 10.1177/1362361313517762): little effects in small groups, little or no effect in large studies, most studies not well controlled. Some other studies (I forgot the citation) even showed that SI therapy increases the incidence of self-harming behaviors.

  32. non says:

    @ global warming – Although everyone’s got an agenda, those on the side of climate denial have an agenda too. Supporting action against climate change would require us to phase out the ubiquitous use of fossil fuels from our society, the most significant cause of global warming. Big oil companies don’t want it happening, but unfortunately big oil is where all the money is.
    They support conservative political campaigns in exchange for pushing climate denial, and that’s why in spite of the overwhelming evidence in support of the very real effects global, such a huge portion of uneducated, follow the leader, self-affirming America (and society at large) refuses to acknowledge its existence. And if you don’t believe it, you’re falling into that same trap.
    When I talk about effects, I mean the shrinking ice caps, receding glaciers, rising sea levels, stronger hurricanes, etc.

  33. non says:

    (more relevant) Anti-vaccination groups can be framed similarly. In response to the obesity epidemic (problematic in its own right, to be sure), a counter movement has started, people overly obsessed with health foods, and “holistic” medicines. Everyone who doesn’t want to fill themselves with garbage wants only the most “natural” stuff, and the consumer industry has jumped on it by using as many buzz-words and as much pseudo-science as people will buy. And these people benefit from making people too scared to use real medicine, and they’ll buy into using their herbal teas or whatever instead.

  34. Wake Up says:

    Gosh all of this frustrates me sooooo much! I really wish that Asperger’s and borderline autism, or a difficult child or whatever you want to call it, were a completely separate diagnosis from AUTISM. Because I have a SEVERELY AUTISTIC child. He is by no means “borderline” and never was. He couldn’t be classified as a “difficult child” by the school because he can’t even manage to attend school! But because there are so many kids categorized now as borderline or asperger’s or whatnot, and we throw that in with autism, the kids with severe autism are not recognized as authentic. Just as we are grouping Asperger’s with autism–and throwing out autism altogether as a ploy to get money or attention or whatnot, we are also negating the existence of a population of children (who will become adults) that have severe daily quality-of-life-impacting difficulties.
    My son is 10 years old. He is NOT toilet trained (and not for lack of trying on his or our part). He is completely non-verbal (though not for lack of trying on HIS end–he desperately wants to talk). He was never “normal”. He was diagnosed at 18 months, had over 4 years of ABA therapy for 40 hours/week at a young age–and it made no difference, sadly. His GI tract is an ulcerated mess, he can’t sleep at night for the pain he’s in, and he struggles to communicate the most basic of his needs. Thousands of dollars and hundreds of doctors later, and there really isn’t much help out there.
    We love him desperately and try every day/hour/minute to help him, and we will always do so.
    So to all those naysayers out there, whether or not there is an epidemic, whether or not famous scientists of the past had Asperger’s, whether or not climate change meets your criteria for real or not, there ARE a substantial number of children with severe AUTISM (NOT Asperger’s or borderline) who suffer every day and are thrown under the bus in the name of these silly arguments.
    Equally as frustrating is the group who claims that I deny my children’s validity as a person by calling autism a bad thing. Really? I’m glad you like YOUR autism, but I can assure you that my son hates HIS autism. He hates that he can’t talk, that he can’t control his body enough to make it to the toilet, that every single piece of food he ingests causes him pain, and that he can’t “just be normal”. His typed words, not mine.
    As an aside, we live in the country (where our child was conceived, born, and grew up), surrounded by GMO soy and corn fields, regularly sprayed with Round Up, and we have vinyl flooring. We have no family history of any sort of neurological illnesses or autism. Pregnancy and delivery were normal, APGAR scores were 9 at birth, 10 at 5 minutes post birth, no drugs during pregnancy or delivery.

  35. All of these comments are from people who have not read Seneff’s source documents or listened to her podcasts. If you don’t do your own research you don’t know what you are talking about. Seneff explains clearly how and why glyphosate causes autism. Ignore her at your own risk.

  36. All of these comments are from people who have not read Seneff’s source documents or listened to her podcasts. If you don’t do your own research you don’t know what you are talking about. Seneff explains clearly how and why glyphosate causes autism. Ignore her at your own risk.

  37. Nick K says:

    #37, 38: People here HAVE read her documents and listened to her podcasts. That’s how they know she is talking nonsense.

  38. della says:

    so the WHO doesn’t know anything, right? Possibly you heard they aren’t excited about glyphosate either.

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