Organic Food Causes Autism and Diabetes

That is the wickedly clever title of a post by Kevin Folta, a plant geneticist at the University of Florida, in Gainsville. To make his point, Folta, as he says on twitter, uses logic “borrowed from the anti-GMO crowd.”

That would be logic like this:

Is it a coincidence that autism has risen since GMOs have been introduced in the US diet?

That’s from Jeffrey Smith, a purveyor of the worst kind of fallacious, anti-GMO fearmongering. His views are so fringe that he wouldn’t be worth mentioning, but alas, he’s been legitimized by popular media personalities, such as Amy Goodman and and Dr. Oz. (Incidentally, The New Yorker has recently published a must-read profile of Oz by Michael Specter.) So the notion that GMO foods are somehow linked to everything from organ damage to autism has gotten wide play.

Never mind, as Folta says in his post, that “there is no legitimate causal relationship between biotechnology and human disease or disorders.” I know, I know: Who cares? To be on the safe side, let’s just label those frankenfoods. Enough already. Even Grist, that open-minded, pro-science bastion of environmental news, asks:

Want to be able to tell the difference between a natural fish and a genetically engineered frankensalmon in the dystopian food future?

Well, now that you put it that way…

[Illustration by Russell Taysom]


64 Responses to “Organic Food Causes Autism and Diabetes”

  1. Buddy199 says:

    Be a propagandist! Go on day time talk shows, get famous! Make E-Z money!

    Start with this furrow-browed statement, filling in the appropriate blanks:

    “Is it just a coincidence that (scary overblown problem) has risen since (thing you’re ideologically opposed to) has been introduced in the US?

    Knowing that your lay audience and most of the hyster-media doesn’t know what “coincidence does not equal causality” means, list a string of coincidences as proof of causality.

    Follow with “the vast majority of respected experts agree…” as additional “proof” because, as we all know, science is based on a popularity contest like picking prom queen.

    Throw in the conspiracy angle:
    “Evil Corp. has millions of dollars invested in (evil product / service you don’t like) so don’t believe anything to the contrarty of what I’m saying.”

    Next, bring out the “sob story”. “Little Timmy here (slow close-up to large sad eyes of child in a wheel chair) was just one victim of (fill in) but undoubtedly there are many more, and they’ll be (make up a scary number) more Timmy’s if nothing is done!”

    Finally, the call to action:

    “It’s certainly reached the critical point and we may already have passed it! We can no longer afford to do nothing! We must act NOW (preferably in a way that makes me more rich and famous).”

    Sound familiar? Demagoguery never goes out of style.

  2. Smith may be fringe, but he is a real menace because he is taken
    seriously not only by the media, but state legislatures as well. Last
    year he spoke before the Connecticut legislature. I contacted the
    committee who invited him, alerting them to his lack of credentials. I
    suggested if they couldn’t dis-invite him, they should at least have
    some real scientists as a counterbalance to his nonsense. They didn’t
    and now he’s using a video from the session as a promo piece.

  3. Doubt is the product of the anti-GMO team. They learned this from team tobacco. Jeffrey Smith’s “Seeds of Doubt” conference. Greenpeace’s “Growing Doubt” campaign. It works for a while.

    The good news is that science can win in the end.

  4. dogktor says:

    I am sorry–not prepared to contribute to the discussion until I’ve read the science article Kevin cited on the conventionally and organically raised potato. Hoping that Kevin can share it. Otherwise, it is back to the same old same old.

  5. davee44 says:

    Researchers in Europe have shown that over 2,000 people reversed diabetes without drugs, the cause of diabetes is food chemicals. An insulin resistance diet can reverse diabetes as well as much of ADHD and Austism is see here

  6. JeffN says:

    Speaking of genes, your colleague at Discover has a fascinating update on what happens when activists overrun a science:

    An interesting read in conjunction with Tom Fuller’s update on social science’s latest contribution to climate:

    Feel free to delete this as somewhat off-topic if you like.

  7. organicconnections says:

    Kevin Folta loves to point out that he is not funded by Monsanto. True. But his research is funded by the Florida Strawberry Growers Association which has a sister company called the Florida Strawberry Patent Service. So the illusion Kevin tries to create of having no financial interest in his efforts to defend GMOs is just that, an illusion. Kevin and the writer of this piece plus a few other players are happily attempting to position themselves with GMOs as science and anti-GMO people as some sort of Neanderthal rabble. They carefully fail to mention that the “science” in support of GMOs has all been paid for by biotech companies interested in profiting from the intellectual property protection GMOs get. (You can’t patent seeds without genetically altering them.) Also missing from any of their statements is the rapant suppression heaped upon scientists who have publicized the risks and concerns presented by GMOs. There’s a full documentary on this:

  8. Nullius in Verba says:

    Very odd.

    Everybody in the world has a financial interest in GMOs. Because they make food cheaper and better, everybody profits except for the people who market the older, poorer, more expensive crops – i.e. the ‘organic food’ people… Guess who funds a lot of anti-GMO science?

    Not that that should make any difference. Criticising on the grounds of who says it rather than what they say is called ‘argumentum ad hominem’ and is a well-known and popular fallacy. You can tell quite a lot by seeing which side uses the technique the most.

    Of course biotech companies hoping to make a profit fund the supporting research – this is true of every technology and innovation. The purpose for doing the science is to invent things to make a profit. The purpose of the profit is to pay for the science and invention. Patents have been around for years for exactly this purpose, to encourage investment in technological innovative improvements to people’s lives, and are only profitable when they do that. There’s nothing special about seeds in this regard.

    I can understand it when taxpayer-funded Marxist academics write things like this, but why is this visceral hatred and mistrust of profit so popular elsewhere? People make a profit by working hard to give other people what they want, at a price they’re willing to pay, in order to make their lives a little bit better. That sounds like a good thing, to me. Why do so many people think people should be punished for helping others? It seems very strange.

    I don’t agree with any criticisms or concerns being suppressed, but I’m not sure how they could be in the internet age. There’s a link to a documentary on these suppressed concerns? So why hasn’t the documentary been suppressed too? Or do you mean the criticisms and concerns that make logical sense have been suppressed, and all we have left are these weird unscientific ones? That sounds possible.

  9. organicconnections says:

    Nice try with the labels. I’m not a taxpayer funded academic and couldn’t be further from a Marxist. I cherish the idea of people inventing things and getting paid real money for it. I am however against monopolistic practices that generate profit through coercive business practices and placing the larger population at risk. The chemical industry has made untold billions poisoning people the world over and still laments being unable to sell things like DDT. I actually saw a comment from a biotech supporter saying that millions of people had died due to the banning of DDT. The pesticide industry and GMO biotechs are one in the same. Poisoning for profit is just that. I love how GMO apologists try to play victim by posing as being oppressed for try to “help” people. The “help” offered by GMOs is a sham that enriches biotech chemical companies.

  10. Nullius in Verba says:

    Congratulations on not being a Marxist academic, although what I was actually saying was that I didn’t understand why you talked like one when you clearly wasn’t one.

    I’m not aware of any monopolistic or coercive business practices in the GMO industry, and of course if any actual risk had been demonstrated it would have been stopped.

    Given how easy it has proved to stop things even on the basis of fantasy risks, like this idea that the chemical industry poison people, or that DDT is toxic to humans, it doesn’t seem very likely, and in fact illustrates perfectly how incredibly safe GMOs have to be for you not to have managed it yet.

    Of course millions have died from the de facto ban on DDT. It’s certainly arguable that the number is far less than the total that have died since of malaria, but that there have been such deaths is obvious.

    Anyone who sells vegetables sells pesticides, since all vegetables contain them. They all sell them for a profit, too. So you’re all one and the same, right?

  11. dogktor says:

    I am assuming that claims of death from DDT bans are based on risks of malaria prevalence rates rising. Citations to “millions dying from DDT” will be incredibly hard to find, because they don’t exist –undeveloped countries where DDT was dumped (India) once it was banned in the US have not seen reductions in rates of malaria. Similarly, places where GMOs are grown have not seen reductions in food insecurity. And it has not escaped the attention of the public that the entities making profits from production of Agent Orange and DDT, are now in charge of our food, So, no there is nothing wrong with profits, until profits are made poisoning people.

    A novel endocrine-disrupting agent in corn with mitogenic activity in human breast and prostatic cancer cells.
    Barry Markaverich, Shaila Mani, Mary Ann Alejandro, Andrea Mitchell, David Markaverich, Trellis Brown, Claudia Velez-Trippe, Chris Murchison, Bert O’Malley, and Robert Faith
    Author information ► Copyright and License information ►
    See letter “Corn and corn-derived products: sources of endocrine disruptors.” in volume 111 on page A691.
    This article has been cited by other articles in PMC.
    Housing adult rats on ground corncob bedding impedes male and female mating behavior and causes acyclicity in females. The suppressive effects on ovarian cyclicity are mimicked by a mitogenic agent purified from the ground corncob bedding material (corn mitogen; CM), which stimulates the proliferation of estrogen receptor (ER)-positive (MCF-7 cells) and ER-negative (MDA-MD-231 cells) breast cancer cells. Purified CM does not compete for [(3)H]estradiol binding to ER or nuclear type II sites, and its effects on MCF-7 breast cancer cell proliferation are not blocked by the antiestrogen ICI-182,780. These results suggest that the active component is unlikely to be a phytoestrogen, bioflavonoid, mycotoxin, or other known endocrine-disrupting agent that modifies cell growth via ER or type II [(3)H]estradiol binding sites. CM also stimulates the proliferation of PC-3 human prostatic cancer cells in vitro, and the growth rate of PC-3 cell xenografts is accelerated in nude male mice housed on ground corncob as opposed to pure cellulose bedding. Consequently, this endocrine-disrupting agent in ground corncob bedding may influence behavioral and physiologic reproductive response profiles and malignant cell proliferation in experimental animals. Fresh corn (kernels and cob) or corn tortillas also contain CM, indicating that human exposure is likely; consequently, CM and/or related mitogens in corn products may influence human health and development.

    Full Text
    The Full Text of this article is available as a PDF (559K).

  12. Nullius in Verba says:

    “I am assuming that claims of death from DDT bans are based on risks of malaria prevalence rates rising.”

    No, they’re based on being a totally obvious consequence of banning DDT.

    “A novel endocrine-disrupting agent in corn with mitogenic activity in human breast and prostatic cancer cells.”

    Very nice. I’ve already been pointed to that one. Was it your intention to prove my point, that all vegetables contain chemical pesticides?

  13. dogktor says:

    No… all vegetables do not contain toxic pesticides. Some do. My point is that in spite of direct evidence of a harmful substance being present in corn ( most likely transgenic) no transgenic seed corporation, I am aware of, has stepped up to check its products for this harmful substance….and eliminate it from the food supply. This is not correlation does not equal causation. This is causation in action, and the result is the same. Denial and propaganda are evidently healthier for the bottom line.
    And this statement ” No, they’re based on being a totally obvious consequence of banning DDT” is simply rubbish.

  14. “You can’t patent seeds without genetically altering them.”

    Well, I’m not sure if it’s seeds particularly, but the Zaiger family has 280 patents on various fruits they’ve made. They even cruelly make orchard owners that want to grow pluots pay $2.25 per tree plus 15% of sales.

    (Edited to add “pay” in last sentence. Oops.)

  15. Nullius in Verba says:

    All vegetables do contain toxic pesticides. Or they’d get eaten by the wildlife before they ever got to your dinner plate. You think you can leave a tasty and nutritious meal outdoors, in the mud, with bugs crawling all over it for months and months, and it not get eaten if there wasn’t some very good reason for that?

    I’m not aware that any organic food corporations have done the testing, either. Same difference.

  16. dogktor says:

    Completely opposite difference. Mine is based on science–your is based on ignorance of medicine. Plant pathologist does not a medical doctor make ….One very obvious difference being, that plants do not have breasts and prostate glands.

  17. Nullius in Verba says:

    So you’re saying that the organic profit-machines have done the testing, then? Care to share the results?

  18. Jared Flater says:

    Biodiversity. That is what as it stake with the spread of GMOs. A healthy, diverse system can produce massive amounts of food without pesticides or synthetic chemicals.

    Every year Organic certified crops yield on par with chemical crops, without the support of massive chemical companies.

    And for those that will claim Organic producers with just use allowed chemicals, many times the cost of the chemicals is not justified, as Certified Organic chemicals are generally very expensive.

  19. dogktor says:

    It has been duly noted that the article Kevin posted has not been shared…so I can’t comment on the potatoes. Regardless, you are changing the subject for obvious reasons. Corn contains leukotoxin diols, and the Monsanto, Dupont, Dows– did not discover it, because they are Not looking. Good luck selling the crap!

  20. dogktor says:

    They should instill doubt — there is a high probability that the transgenic corn they so (ahem) precisely engineered can lead to breast and prostate cancer.

    Hi Lord Demagogue! Nice to meet you! I carried out a little social experiment on this distinguished “science” group and actually asked to read the science paper Kevin posted. The interesting thing was, that I was the only one, and nobody shared it. You don’t give a rat’s ass about science or knowledge–do you?

  21. Nullius in Verba says:

    It’s not a matter of not having discovered it, anyone who understands plant biology already knows it. All plants contain natural chemical pesticides, roughly half of them carcinogenic. It’s not news.

    Like I said, the organic food corporations sell it too. They’re not looking, either. And they’re not telling anyone about it. There are no labels on your organic lettuce telling you about all the untested, uncontrolled cocktail of toxic chemical polysyllabic pesticides they’re selling. They’re not stupid.

    Immoral maybe, but not stupid.

  22. Jared Flater says:

    Organic profit-machines? You sound as bad as the people you claim to be above.

  23. dogktor says:

    Blah Blah Blah. Go find some kinder garden kids to indoctrinate into your school of anything-but-science.

  24. Nullius in Verba says:

    Care to quantify that “high probability”?

  25. Nullius in Verba says:


    Yes. That’s called ‘irony’.

  26. Nullius in Verba says:

    GMOs can create additional diversity. You can engineer thousands of new species, increasing diversity manyfold.

    And no agricultural system can produce crops without pesticides. If you don’t use artificial ones, you have to fall back on the natural ones, which often increase concentration as a result.

    But if you think there are alternatives that produce the same yield for less cost, then please, by all means use them. People will do anyway – you don’t have to campaign for that. You could sell organic veg for cheaper than the non-organic. The fact that they don’t suggests, if someone is not profiteering, that the claim is untrue.

  27. dogktor says:

    The comment I’ve posted before has been disappeared, Keith. It said in more words than this that common sense would dictate the probability of a variety of transgenic corn to contain leukotoxin diols (linked with breast and prostatic cancer) to be >90%.

  28. Nullius in Verba says:

    I assumed you meant there was a high probability of developing cancer from eating organic corn.

    If what you meant was that there was a high probability that organic corn contains a chemical that when given in high doses in isolation can increase cancer, then that’s practically certain. Like I said, we’ve known that for a long time.

  29. dogktor says:

    The studies on leukotoxin diols were written in 2004-2005, when >90% of the corn in the US was transgenic . Put your thinking cap on “independent thinker”.

  30. Nullius in Verba says:

    But you have no evidence that there’s any difference between the trangenic and non-trangenic corn in this regard, right?

    Given the thousands of chemicals and genes in corn, and the tiny fraction of them affected by transgenes, it’s in excess of 99% that any individual toxic chemical will be generic to all varieties of corn, and have nothing to do with the transgenes.

  31. dogktor says:

    I’ve got a better idea. Why don’t you produce some papers which demonstrate that Dow’s, Monsanto’s, Dupont’s, Syngenta’s transgenic corn is free of corn mitogens.

  32. Nullius in Verba says:

    And why don’t you produce some showing that organic corn is?

    Or are the rules different?

  33. dogktor says:

    I am not a corn producer–I am merely a doctor who advises her clients and practices preventive medicine. The state of affairs being what they are, I have no choice but to advise them not to eat transgenic corn, because the producers fail to assure me of its safety, even in the face of direct evidence of it containing harmful substances which predispose subjects exposed to the corn to breast and prostate cancer, @ LOAEL of 0.2- 0.5 ppm.…-a0168423874

  34. dogktor says:

    Yep –the rules are different.

  35. Nullius in Verba says:

    If you was honest, you’d advise them simply not to eat corn, since you have no evidence that being transgenic has any relevance.

    But to justify it scientifically you would have to first quantify what effect it had on actual cancer incidence for individual people, and compare that to the background levels tolerated from other vegetables like peanuts and nutmeg and so on. If they stop eating corn, they might start eating more of something worse.

  36. dogktor says:

    Nope. My job is to do a risk to benefit analysis. The odds of the corn being transgenic are much much higher than organic, because it is highly unlikely that expensive organic corn would be included in corn bedding for rats. I practice evidence based medicine, where evidence exists–when it does not, I make decisions based on the next best thing– common sense.

  37. You don’t give a rat’s ass about science or knowledge–do you?

    No, that’s why I’ve spent a career in science and teaching.

    If you have problems with Kevin’s post, I’m sorry–you’ll have to take it up with Kevin. But your unwarranted abuse is as unfounded as all your other claims.

  38. dogktor says:

    Talking the talk isn’t the same as walking the walk. If you were into science , being that you are all tweeter connected, some one surely would have figured out a way to get the “science” paper out. But that was never the point. Was it? Welcome to the church of GMO’s masquerading as “science”

  39. Actually, it’s well documented that Bt corn has reduced mycotoxins, one of the worst cancer-causing problems around.

    It’s actually well-studied in animal feed situations. A dog doctor ought to follow that literature better.

  40. dogktor says:

    I stand corrected, the odds of the corn being transgenic in 2004 was >80%. Thanks for that tid bit.

  41. dogktor says:

    Am I supposed to kneel before you, oh you great PhD specialist in bioinformatics ( is it?) who has never practiced medicine for a second in her life? The minute you can help me control atrial fibrillation in a dog with an SPO2 of 87%, you’ll have something of value to tell me. Until then, you are nothing more than a church lady on the internet pushing GMOs.

  42. Nullius in Verba says:

    The odds of the corn being trangenic are much higher in the same sense that the odds are much higher that it was shipped to market by a diesel-driven truck rather than on the back of a horse-drawn cart. Would you advise people not to eat corn transported by truck, on the basis of these very high odds?

    You have no evidence that the transgenes are relevant. You have no evidence of quantifiable harm relative to the background. You have no evidence that a change in diet is net beneficial. I’m sure you’re sincere in your beliefs, but it’s not evidence-based. It might well be a common mode of thinking, though. Lots of people think like that.

  43. dogktor says:

    I have patients to see. I am not going to repeat myself ad nauseum. Please post links to papers showing transgenic corn to be free of corn mitogens. Thank you.

  44. Why are you grousing about a paper on Kevin’s site? We are talking about Keith’s post. Do try to follow along.

    And it’s not hard to get papers–the full citation was posted over there for you. I’m not sure why you can’t get it. Nor does it have any bearing on Keith’s post here.

    But even if you did have it, I’m sure you’d misrepresent it just like all the other claims you made. Welcome to the church of BS masquerading as “medical” authority.

  45. Nullius in Verba says:

    No, you’re not supposed to kneel before anyone. And you’re perfectly entitled to your own opinion. But so are we all.

    All I’d suggest is that you perhaps meditate in some quieter moment on your reasons for your belief. There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind if you discover new information, or you may find that as a result of the conversation you’re able to construct a stronger and better support for it.

    This is the way scientific debate works. Each side presents its reasons for its beliefs. You present yours. I present mine. And as a result of that discussion we each learn a little more about the strengths and weaknesses of the respective arguments. Gradually we converge on the strongest ones.

    I appreciated the conversation, and would like to thank you for an enjoyable debate. I need to go and do something else now, but for now I hope you’ll accept my respect and good wishes.

  46. kkloor says:


    When you return from seeing your patients, how about showing a little bedside manner in the comment thread?

  47. Wow, your math and ability to read a graph are really awful. That explains a lot.

  48. Your church and kneeling obsession is bizarre enough on its own.

    But in science we work with the literature–not YouTube. Maybe that’s different in veterinary medicine.

  49. dogktor says:

    Worse, organically cultivated plants are placed in highly artificial environments. Rather than growing in soil as it exists, soils are highly amended with composts and manures. High levels of nitrogen and carbon dramatically alter gene expression leading to patterns never observed in nature. Van Djik et al. (2012) found that there were dramatic differences in gene expression between conventional and organically-grown potatoes, with organic potatoes showing higher expression of stress-related genes.

    The Identification and Interpretation of Differences in the Transcriptomes of Organically and Conventionally Grown Potato Tubers
    Jeroen P. van Dijk, Katarina Cankar, Peter J. M. Hendriksen, Henriek G. Beenen, Ming Zhu, Stanley Scheffer, Louise V. T. Shepherd, Derek Stewart, Howard V. Davies, Carlo Leifert, Steve J. Wilkockson, Kristina Gruden, and Esther J. Kok
    Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2012 60 (9), 2090-2101

    The article is behind a pay wall, and you know it.

    But even if you did have it, I’m sure you’d misrepresent it just like all the other claims you made.

    Project much?

  50. dogktor says:

    Having read many of your posts, and being painfully blunt, I believe it is best to make it quite clear that I don’t think of you as a scientific authority.

  51. dogktor says:

    I was wrong about the % of acres dedicated to transgenic corn in 2004.
    Transgenic corn was grown on 45% of US acres in the US in 2004 (page 6).

    That fact does not change the fact that a novel mitogen was discovered which stimulates breast cancer growth in vitro and in vivo.

    So, can I see an HPLC demonstrating transgenic corn grown on a much higher % of US acres today, and found in 75% of the food people consume to be free of: 9,12-oxy-10,13-dihydroxyoctadecanoic acid and 10,13-oxy-9,12-dihydroxyoctadecanoic acid, collectively designated tetrahydrofurandiols (THF-diols), 9,10-dihydroxy-12-octadecenoic acid (leukotoxin diol; LTX-diol) and 12,13-dihydroxy-9-octadecenoic acid (iso-leukotoxin diol; i-LTX-diol) isomers …. each isomer stimulated (p < 0.001) MCF-7 cell proliferation identified in 2004?

  52. dogktor says:

    Thank you back. The reasons for my belief conclusions are the crummy feeding trials on transgenic crops present in pet foods and human foods, carried out for 90 days- in which half the rats go missing along with crucial data.

  53. Ella Baker says:

    Organic foods are safer and has nothing to do with Autism and Diabetes as far as I know.

  54. laurie says:

    I personally prefer to choose the natural foods offered by the planet, but I have to commend you on you comment! It’s well written, humorous and true in so many ways. Well done, Buddy!

  55. solocshaw says:

    post hoc ergo propter hoc

  56. Latahs Noize says:

    why did Discover Magazine use Russell Taysom’s Frankensalmon image without asking him or paying him and then only retrospectively crediting him?

  57. Omar Majeed says:

    Some interesting points, not. The only good thing about this unsettlingly awful article is the illustration, and you stole it.

  58. Cori Wood says:

    Lol WOWZA. I wasted an entire 35 minutes reading the argument between you two! Impressive, that it kept my interest for so long..

  59. dogktor says:

    Thanks! Fortunately Kevin has patience 🙂

    PS…if you are a biotech major, consider getting dual degrees in biochem/ molecular biology etc + medicine.

  60. I don’t believe that it is true since organic food is all but unhealthy. They have so many benefits to the human body as they are devoid of chemicals compared to other food types. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but statistics have shown favorable results with organic foods over the conventional ones. –

  61. That is hard is believe.. I personally have experienced so many benefits of consuming organic food items.. Diabetes cannot be caused by healthy organic food ..

  62. Uriel 238 says:

    What foods would those be? Even “organic” foods proffered by contemporary farmers have been modified to grand extreme though selective breed, grafting and so on, for the last five thousand years, and modern day livestock are as comparable to natural species as the toy poodle is to an arctic wolf.

  63. Matt Lott says:

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, however, you’re not entitled to an opinion contrary to the facts.

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