“A range of neurodevelopmental disorders, characterized by social impairment, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive and stereotypical patterns of behavior.” That is how the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke defines autism.
The February issue of the “Jere Beasley Report” contains an article on autism and the impact of certain environmental toxins on human health as reported by Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a senior research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She contends that at today’s rate, by 2025, one in two children will be autistic.
Seneff’s research indicts the chemical glyphosate is the primary cause of autism. The Communicable Disease Center (CDC) reports that autism now occurs in one of every 68 children, an increase of 30 percent from one in 88 only two years ago. A CDC study in 2009 revealed a 7- to 8-fold increase in autism from the early 1900s to 2007.
Glyphosate is the main ingredient of the herbicide, Roundup, which is produced by Monsanto. The company has genetically altered several crops, described as “Roundup Ready,” in a way that makes them unaffected by applications of the herbicide, which kills broad-leaved plants. The genetically modified crops, referred to as GMOs, include soy, corn, sorghum, canola, cotton, and alfalfa. Wheat is being altered to become the next GMO crop. Farmers are required to purchase their Roundup Ready seeds from Monsanto for each planting and are prohibited from using seeds produced by the GMO plants they harvest.
The Beasley report states that Americans have ten times the amount of glyphosate in their bodies as Europeans, whose governments either heavily restrict glyphosate use or ban it altogether. The report also cites research conducted by the Alliance for Natural Health revealing that American mother’s breast milk contains 760 to 1,600 times more glyphosate than the maximum allowable limits in Europeans’ drinking water. Autistic children are said to have “biomarkers” indicating excessive glyphosate levels, including iron and zinc deficiencies, low serum sulfate levels, mitochondrial disorders, and seizures, according to the Beasley report.
Research conducted at the University of California Davis revealed that pregnant mothers living on or near farms where pesticides were being used had a 60 percent greater risk of giving birth to autistic children.
Readers interested in learning more about the potential effects of glyphosate on human health can find a wealth of information on the subject on the Internet.
The Beasley report failed to mention another adverse effect of the widespread use of glyphosate on Alabama’s state insect, the beautiful monarch butterfly. In the 1900s an estimated one billion monarchs made an epic journey from the U.S. and Canada each year to overwinter In a forested area in northern Mexico. They would return to lay their eggs on milkweed plants on which their larvae would feed and pupate. Authorities say that during the past 20 years, the number of monarchs has plummeted by 80 to 90 percent. Most researchers believe the primary cause for the decline is the increased use of glyphosate on Roundup Ready croplands, especially in the Midwest, killing the milkweeds. Another cause is thought to be highway departments spraying herbicides on rights-of-way to kill plants, including milkweeds. Conservationists are urging farmers to avoid killing milkweeds to the extent practicable, and asking highway departments to use mowing rather than herbicides to control vegetation.
If glyphosate is as hazardous to human health as many believe it to be, it may be just a matter of time until it is banned for use on crops used for food for humans and livestock. Meanwhile, increasing numbers of people are becoming concerned about the safety of GMO foods and products containing GMO ingredients.
Bob Mount is a Professor Emeritus with the Department of Zoology and Entomology at Auburn University. He is also chairman of the Opelika Order of Geezers, well-known local think tank and political clearing house. He writes about birds, snakes, turtles, bugs and assorted conservation topics.