Pesticides and food: It’s not a black and white issue

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FIRST ARTICLE: Has pesticide use decreased over the last 40 years?

Dissecting MIT computer scientist Stephanie Seneff’s claim that glyphosate herbicide causes autism

[Editor’s note: Josh Bloom is director of chemical and pharmaceutical sciences at the American Council on Science and Health. He has a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Virginia.]

Back in 2014, Stephanie Seneff, a Senior Research Scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, when speaking at a panel discussing GMOs (she’s against them, of course), made the following statement:

At today’s rate, by 2025, one in two children will be autistic.

[Read the GLP’s coverage of MIT computer scientist Stephanie Seneff’s claims here and here.] 

OK, anyone with even one working neuron knows that such a claim is nonsense. One-half of children having autism in eight years? Please. But you may not understand the basis of the claim, or why it is nonsense. Let’s take a look. There are a few dead giveaways.

One of them is the website on which the article about Dr. Seneff’s statement appeared. In about five seconds, things start to make sense.

Related article:  Have GMO crops cut herbicide use? A tale of two conflicting studies

Had Stephanie Seneff looked hard enough she may have uncovered other “causes” of autism. Perhaps the number of yellow Volkswagens on the road, the daily humidity in Boise, or maybe even the number of paisley ties worn by guys named Steve. Which should you believe? None of them. In fact, one prevailing theory about the rise in autism is due to more diagnoses, not more cases. And, David Warmflash, writing for the Genetic Literacy Project, argues that autism is genetic.

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The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: MIT Researcher: Glyphosate Will Cause Half Of All Children To Be Autistic By 2025. Yeah, Sure.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Click the link above to read the full, original article.

71 thoughts on “Dissecting MIT computer scientist Stephanie Seneff’s claim that glyphosate herbicide causes autism”

  1. You profess to be “disseceting” Dr Seneff’s statement. They way you proceed is all but scientific. That’s a shame.
    You give no source for her alleged statement which can be crosschecked. Such a claim is nowhere to be found. Instead, Dr. Seneff has pointed out at the the present rate that half of all children born in 2032 will have autism. Source:
    What you also fail to report is that Dr. Seneff points out that correlation is not the same as causation. However, she provides a sound scientific hypothesis about possible biophysical and biochemical mechanisms which – if proven – would explain a causative effect.
    The main point which Dr. Seneff makes is that given the fact that glyphosate is a close relative of glycine, a coding amino acid, it is stunning that the authorities continue to rely on industry-funded data claiming to show glyphosate being no problem. Instead it should be expected that independent research be funded to verify or disprove her hypothesis. This hasn’t been done to this day. Why not?

  2. anyone with one working neuron is dead. this article is weak a f. thanks for mentioning the microbiota! and you really want to stand by your genetic theory? mugglefuckingtrollshit…

  3. So, nobody thinks that a pesticide (a poison) being sprayed on stuff we eat could ever cause even a tiny problem worth checking out. When its freaking sprayed on wheat and corn. Two of the biggest crops we eat. You don’t get through MIT much less end up there for 35 years unless your pretty smart. I might be a child but I am not stupid.

  4. No idea who this author is, but he ain’t no scientist. If he was being honest about answering the question why autism (and other negative health) rates have increased over a relatively short period of time to a population spread over a wide area, then he would not dismiss the food supply as one of only a small number of things that have changed during the same time period, reach across great distances, and has nearly ubiquitous exposure to every person. History clearly shows human health is most affected by the quality of air, food, and water. Water is not shared nationally, air travels great distances but like acid rain we should see a greater incidence of autism in certain areas, which we don’t. National food distribution networks have grown dramatically and is consumed daily by every member of the population, which makes it a logical place to look.

    If you simply want to distract others from pursuing a fact that you are trying to hide, you write an article like this that spreads FUD and uses nonsense like “yellow Volkswagons” to berate.

    So, who is genuinely more interested in helping people: Josh Bloom and this Genetic Literacy Project funded by the GMO industry, or scientists like Stephanie Seneff?

    • That was answered in the article. Much of the increase in autism is due to increased use of that diagnoses by MDs and a broadening of the autism definition.

      BTY, Stephanie Senneff is a computer programer, not a qualified biologist, chemist, toxicologist. She also blames vaccines for autism!!! Real bright!!!

    • You mean fringe scientists like Dr. Seneff who isn’t an expert, let alone a respected expert, in biology, biotech, medicine, or chemistry. All the best in developing a few basic skills in skepticism, critical thought and literacy in at least basic science. It’s not easy so I recommend humbling your ego by acknowledging that it is arrogant and pretentious of you to have strong opinions about subjects you literally know almost nothing about. Learn how genuine research is conducted and then do it on this technology bc so far you are just regurgitating the propaganda by anti-GMO activists who are not respected experts in their field bc you have bought into the fear and the propaganda aligns with the ideological narrative associated with your identity. Once you become literate in science and more familiar with the history of science and how good it is at policing itself, you will learn to trust it more as the most reliable community on the planet for information, albeit not perfect. All the best on your pursuit of what is more likely to be true than not! It isn’t easy, so sincerely all the best!

      • The recent ruling against Monsanto’s Glyphosate is a great example of how the push for GMOs represent science for profit-seeking, not health-seeking.

        Science can’t police itself when corporations only fund outcomes that serve their interests and flood the market with biased results. Tobacco did it, Monsanto did it, and countless others do it everyday. This corruption is at the root of our public anti-science crisis, where laymen rightly conclude that today’s version of “science” has become untrustworthy, putting corporate profit far ahead of public interest.

        You’re calling for people to have “faith” in science is utterly ridiculous, for what I hope are obvious reasons. Your schoolyard ad hominem and argumentum ad lapidem attacks undermine science by distracting from and attempting to dismiss real problems.

        We badly need widespread systemic change in the “science industry” if humanity will ever trust and embrace science once again. If that is what you also want, then start acting like it.

        • This decision ignored the science and was a legal decision decided by a jury who were not experts in GMO technology and easily manipulated by the propaganda that spoke to their emotions. Your statement lacks logic and displays your general ignorance of the significance of the decision as well as your overall ignorance of the science that currently generally supports the safety of glyphosate when used as recommended in most situations. Yeah, let’s ban glyphosate and bring back previous pesticides that were much more toxic. Many organic pesticides are actually more dangerous and still require one suit up and avoid skin contact. What’s worse is that organic pesticides have virtually no oversight for their safety.

          You obviously don’t understand how science works and are regurgitating the same propaganda I used to when I was ignorant of the technology and illiterate in science. Research who funds the majority of science. It’s the tax payer, not corporations. Also, published research is often performed by grad students who wanted to make the world a better place. Do you know how many tens of thousands of people worldwide are working on GMO research and technology? There would be no keeping current adverse effects of this technology secret if it existed. This technology can be used in adverse ways by terrorists, but terrorists are not regulated like legitimate corporations and it takes huge corporations to create GMO’s bc it takes around 150 million dollars to get each new GMO seed past the regulations, most of which are politically based and have nothing to do with the evidence of safety provided by research since the 60’s and thousands of studies.

          With research being so competitive and underpaid, solid evidence against GMO’s would make a scientists career. Instead, fringe scientists who are funded by political, anti-GMO groups like Green Peace conduct pseudoscience to manufacture evidence against GMO’s. In particular, I am talking about the infamous Seralini scandal who had major conflicts of interest tied to his “research” and his methods were highly flawed. It’s not that anyone is trying “suppress” the truth, it’s that Seralini is fringe scientist peddling pseudoscience that people who are easily manipulated by their emotions and ignorance of the technology believe bc they are illiterate in science and how to be a skeptical, critical thinker. I totally agree with you that science has become corrupted, but not in the way you think. It is corrupt in that open access junk journals will publish almost anything, especially if you pay them enough, and this legitimizes fringe scientists like Seralini to the ignorant public. Serelini’s infamous rat study was retracted from a good journal and then republished by his cronies from the Union of Concerned Scientist, which, unfortunately, has many fringe scientists on it’s board, including Seralini. Search for the review of his research for why the methods were flawed. Also, Seralini was being paid by a corporation called Sevene who peddles a bogus glyphosate detox product at health food stores. Oh, and fyi, Whole Foods made more money than the “evil” Monsanto in 2015.

          Your faith in your own ignorance is what is ridiculous. You likely suffer from what is called the Dunning-Kruger Effect where you are too ignorant on a specific topic to recognize your own ignorance. This is why democracy is a horrible idea bc the world becomes controlled by politicians who easily and skillfully manipulate the ignorant masses who are easily controlled by their fear of things on which they are ignorant. Emotions control the masses, not critical thought and skeptical reasoning.

          I strongly encourage you to become more literate in science and learn how to properly conduct research so that you can better parse what it more likely to be true than not. A good place to start is to acknowledge how arrogant and pretentious it is for you to have such a strong opinion on subjects you are clearly ignorant of and not an expert in. You can still have your opinion, but voicing it with the confidence you display is what makes you arrogant and pretentious. If you are not a respected expert, you should defer to what the consensus of respected experts say on a matter, even if it disagrees with your ideological narrative. What you then need to do is find out why these experts are saying what they are saying and accept the possibility that you very well likely are wrong. Learn how to recognize propaganda and the tools used by “documentaries” to speak to your emotions and manipulate your ignorance. You talk about large corporations, do realize that the Corporate Organic Agenda is well funded and is exploiting your ignorance? When I figured that out after being an anti-GMO activist for 20 years, I became livid.

          I went on a bit of a rant here, but everything I said applies. The real world is complex and does not fit into a neat little box of explanations. What good science does is try to find out what is more likely to be true than not. Science does not “prove” anything but rather build a body of supporting evidence. Politics sometime do get involved, but eventually the evidence speaks for itself bc the goal of a good scientist is not the will-to-believe, but the wish to find out, which is its exact opposite. All the best to you on your path of becoming literate in science. It isn’t easy, especially when your ideological narrative is firmly attached to your identity. But maybe you should do your best to examine and question that identity in case you are not as well-informed as you currently think you are. If you can try and look at things in a non-emotional way and desire knowing what it more likely true than not, even if it means changing your position, you might just embark on a life-transforming journey of developing your critical thinking and skeptical abilities. This started for me when I went to university to pursue my degree in chemistry. I highly recommend a podcast called The Skeptics Guide to the Universe to anyone who is really interested in better developing their critical thinking and skeptical abilities.

          All the best to everyone in their pursuit of what is more likely to be true than not. Don’t settle for a position. Be open to being wrong and don’t attach your identity to your position. By trusting the consensus of respected experts, you don’t have to have your own ego attached to things that you are ignorant of. I have been wrong many times so I no longer trust my beliefs in things that I am not an expert in. It is very liberating and truly humbling bc you are forced to acknowledge your own ignorance and the limitations of your current awareness. But the beauty is that it doesn’t mean you have to remain ignorant. Again, all the best to everyone, especially those who disagree with what I have posted. I know you all mean well, but are just misguided and ignorant on this topic.

        • The recent ruling on Monsanto had nothing to do with the science and was made by a jury of non-experts who were allowed to be mislead by their emotions and not facts.

          Science receives the majority of it’s research funding from tax payers, not corporate interests. Again you illustrate you don’t know what you are talking about as your regurgitate propaganda from your echo chamber. But the Corporate Organic Agenda does have plenty of manufactured evidence and poorly conducted studies to mislead you with. In particular, check out the controversy on the infamous GMO and glyphosate corn rat study conducted by Seralini and funded by Green Peace, where Seralini had a number of conflicts of interest. His study was retracted for flawed methodology and then republished by his cronies from the Union of Concerned Scientist who started an pseudo-peer-reviewed open access journal promoting their brand of pseudo-environmentalism. The organic agenda is gaining traction and lobbying power. Did you know that Whole Foods made more money in 2015 than Monsanto?

          • Stopped reading at “The recent ruling on Monsanto had nothing to do with the science.” Your alternative reality is quaint. Reminds me of the criticisms of the Scopes trial….

    • Do you ask this rhetorical question bc he challenges your misinformed beliefs and delusions with facts? Not being able to accept facts and being stuck in delusional ideological fixations really sucks! All the best with getting over that!

    • Do you have proof of industry trolling or is this just the regurgitated generic and unoriginal canned response you vomit whenever someone challenges your rigid ideological belief system with facts? I feel sorry for you and your lack of critical thought and literacy in science. You are so pretentious and arrogant in your ignorance and can’t even see it. All the best with climbing out of that dark hole you have dug for yourself so that the light of knowledge can once again bathe you in her warmth. Cheers!

        • Thanks for the reply. Since an unsubstantiated insult is what you chose to lead off with, I will assume that you currently lack the logic and literacy in science to be a critical thinker.

          So, you attempt to insult me for my pro-science position on GMO’s which, to date, unequivocally after 30 years of research support the safety of all GE crops currently available to the public by suggesting that I must be an employee of Monsanto? Do you realize the lack of logic in that statement? That is actually a compliment to me and I really wish I did work for Monsanto bc even their lowliest Filipino laborers on Maui start at around $20 an hour. Why aren’t organic farmers with their over-priced produce offering their laborers on Maui anything close to that?

          I wish I worked for Monsanto, but if you think arguing with well-intentioned, but misguided people like you who like the convenience of being able to ignore facts that disagree with their rigid ideology is cushy, you truly are a fool. All the best with developing your critical thinking skills and at becoming literate in science. It just might help you put into perspective how arrogant and pretentious you are for having such a strong opinion about something you are ignorant of. At least that is what it did for me after being anti-GMO activist for about 20 years.

          “It is easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” – Mark Twain

  5. It’s not up to us to doubt that Glyphosate contributes to disease and disorders, like autism. It’s up to Monsanto to dispel our fears with their own long-term studies, which until now they’ve refused to do on any meaningful level.
    And if you say: “Well, the FDA says it’s safe,” then what you’re really saying is: “Monsanto says it’s safe.”
    I think Stephanie Seneff is a hero.

  6. I was just trying to see ‘the other side of the coin’ regarding Dr. Stephanie Seneff. I’ve read her papers and they seem ‘plausible’, but Computer Science and Vitamin D research don’t really fit together in my picture of science! So, Thank you Josh Bloom for reminding me that Correlation does NOT equal causation. AND that data can be manipulated. True that correlations should be evaluated to see IF they are related — obviously, tuition and autism are not related so no further evaluation of that would be warranted. The glyphosate-autism or glyphosate-celiac disease correlations should be evaluated further. But, that was not the point of your blog I think. So thank you for speaking out. I appreciate the reminder

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