I just read this article on a 'health news' site:


In summary, it states that an MIT researcher has said that half of all children will have autism by 2025 because of the widespread use of glyphosate herbicides (like Roundup). I am pretty much ignoring the 'half of all children' part of the claim since it assumes that the rate of increase in prevalence will continue at a steady pace, and I don't accept that assumption (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html, Is there an autism epidemic?).

As to the main claim that glyphosate causes autism, the researcher has published a graph that shows a correlation between the rate of autism diagnoses and the use of glyphosate (http://people.csail.mit.edu/seneff/glyphosate/glyphosate.html). I would think that the increase in autism should track about 2 to 4 years after the increase in glyphosate (since autism is usually diagnosed around that age), but I'm not sure.

Most of the rest of the article isn't really related to the claim made in the headline.

So, is there indeed a strong correlation between glyphosate and autism, and if so, is there anything to indicate a causal relationship between the two?

  • 7
    A lot of the evidence looks to be of the "I found a few things that correlate" type and little statistical care has been taken to check for reasonableness. For example, if autism was caused by glyphosate the right metric to search would be autism incidence. The plot shown is cumulative autism prevalence (and numbers may not be correct anyway) but this is clearly wrong as a metric for the claimed causal relationship. Worth a good debunking, though.
    – matt_black
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 13:27
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    With that type of reasoning, I could easily show that mobile phones cause autism, or computers, or anything that has increased in usage over the years. Guns cause autism - perfectly as reasonable as what the "study" is saying.
    – Jasmine
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 16:17
  • 5
    Repeat after me, loudly, with megaphones: CORRELATION DOES NOT EQUAL CAUSATION!" Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 16:43
  • 2
    Obligatory XKCD link: xkcd.com/925
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 22:45
  • To have even a ghost of a chance of "supporting" the claim, evidence would have to show that autism has increased in populations with a higher exposure to the herbicide. A simple increase with time is not sufficient, especially given that there is considerable evidence that the diagnosis rate (vs number who actually have the disorder) has increased over the years. Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 13:10

1 Answer 1


Here is a good article that seems much more unbiased. It looks like there is no real scientific link.

Is there evidence supporting a link between autism and GMOs

However, whether you are searching for a link between autism and GMOs or autism and glyphosate, your findings can be summarized in one brief sentence: “there is no data that I could find”.

Throughout the course of doing research for this piece, I contacted several research scientists including my former lab, which is now one of Canada’s leading autism research laboratories and part of a project that is sequencing the genomes of ten thousand ASD patients (note that I am not an ASD research scientist). My request for an opinion on the topic was passed from one research scientist to the next and across the board, I got the same message: “there is no evidence-based data we are aware of”. That is not to say that a link does not exist or may not be identified in the future, but as I write this article, there is no credible research linking GMOs to autism.

[...] The onus is on the researcher to disprove the null hypothesis, i.e. to prove that something exists or that there is a link. Until that point in time, there is no link.

[...] The link is a classic case of association with no causation.

There’s a plethora of items whose prevalence or use has increased during the past 20 years: the number of electronics we own, the number of pedicures women get, the amount of coffee we drink, etc, and each would make an equally convincing graph if their rate was compared to the incidence of ASD over time. This is not to say that glyphosate should not be studied; yet until a link is identified, its association with ASD is equivalent to that of eating organic food, whose salves have also risen in tandem with the increase in incidences of autism.


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