Research Gone Wild: The Future of Autism

Correlation vs. causation.
Author:
Publish date:
(Photo: Feng Yu/Shutterstock)

(Photo: Feng Yu/Shutterstock)

WHAT WAS SAID

"At today’s rates, by 2025, half the kids born will be diagnosed with autism," MIT computer science researcher Stephanie Seneff has stated in frequent talks, adding that increased use of glyphosate, an herbicide marketed commercially as Roundup, is to blame for rising rates of autism. The Alliance for Natural Health USA is just the most recent organization to highlight Seneff’s claims on its website.

WHAT DOES THE SCIENCE SAY?

A number of reviews—such as one from 2005 in Current Directions in Psychological Science—have shown that the jump in the rate of autism over the past 20 years is due to changes in how the disorder is diagnosed. As for the role of glyphosate in autism, a number of studies, including one in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health in 2012, found little evidence linking the herbicide to adverse developmental outcomes.

HOW FAR HAS IT SPREAD?

The Alliance for Natural Health USA is the stateside branch of a United Kingdom-based international alternative health group that advocates ideas such as the dangers of GMOs and vaccines. By mid-January, the non-profit's article on Seneff's prediction had been shared on Facebook 118,000 times, and 5,000 times across other social media platforms. Several additional outlets picked up the story; a post on the website The Mind Unleashed in October was shared on Facebook more than 110,000 times.

Submit your response to letters@psmag.com. If you would like us to consider your letter—which will be edited—for publication, please include your name, city, and state.

For more from Pacific Standard on the science of society, and to support our work, sign up for our email newsletter and subscribe to our bimonthly magazine, where this piece originally appeared. Digital editions are available in the App Store (iPad) and on Zinio (Android, iPad, PC/MAC, iPhone, and Win8), Amazon, and Google Play (Android).

Related