She’s baa-aack.

Remember Stephanie Seneff? When last Orac discussed her, she had been caught dumpster diving into the VAERS database in order to torture the data to make it confess a “link” between aluminum adjuvants in vaccines and acetaminophen and—you guessed it!—autism. It was a bad paper in a bad journal known as Entropy that I deconstructed in detail around two years ago. As I said at the time, I hadn’t seen a “review” article that long and that badly done since the even more horrible article by Helen Ratajczak entitled Theoretical aspects of autism: Causes–A review (which, not surprisingly, was cited approvingly by Seneff et al). Seneff, it turns out, is an MIT scientist, but she is not a scientist with any expertise in autism, epidemiology, or, for that matter, any relevant scientific discipline that would give her the background knowledge and skill set to take on analyzing the epidemiological literature regarding autism. Indeed, she is in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT, and her web page there describes her thusly:

Stephanie Seneff is a Senior Research Scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. She received the B.S. degree in Biophysics in 1968, the M.S. and E.E. degrees in Electrical Engineering in 1980, and the Ph.D degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in 1985, all from MIT. For over three decades, her research interests have always been at the intersection of biology and computation: developing a computational model for the human auditory system, understanding human language so as to develop algorithms and systems for human computer interactions, as well as applying natural language processing (NLP) techniques to gene predictions. She has published over 170 refereed articles on these subjects, and has been invited to give keynote speeches at several international conferences. She has also supervised numerous Master’s and PhD theses at MIT. In 2012, Dr. Seneff was elected Fellow of the International Speech and Communication Association (ISCA).

In recent years, Dr. Seneff has focused her research interests back towards biology. She is concentrating mainly on the relationship between nutrition and health. Since 2011, she has written over a dozen papers (7 as first author) in various medical and health-related journals on topics such as modern day diseases (e.g., Alzheimer, autism, cardiovascular diseases), analysis and search of databases of drug side effects using NLP techniques, and the impact of nutritional deficiencies and environmental toxins on human health.

So what we have here is a computer scientist interested in artificial intelligence who thinks she can switch her expertise to medicine, biology, and epidemiology. Let’s just put it this way. An undergraduate degree in biophysics in 1968 does not qualify one to do this sort of research, and, as I discussed in her foray into autism and vaccine epidemiology, it really does show. Badly. The paper was so embarrassingly incompetent that I’m surprised any journal was willing to publish it.

Just before Christmas, a bunch of articles started making the rounds in the usual places citing a senior MIT scientist as proclaiming mind-numbingly ridiculous things like, Half of All Children Will Be Autistic by 2025, Warns Senior Research Scientist at MIT and, just the other day, MIT scientist links autism to Monsanto’s Roundup and predicts HALF of U.S. children will be autistic by 2025. Here’s how it’s been reported:

At a conference last Thursday, in a special panel discussion about GMOs, she took the audience by surprise when she declared, “At today’s rate, by 2025, one in two children will be autistic.” She noted that the side effects of autism closely mimic those of glyphosate toxicity, and presented data showing a remarkably consistent correlation between the use of Roundup on crops (and the creation of Roundup-ready GMO crop seeds) with rising rates of autism. Children with autism have biomarkers indicative of excessive glyphosate, including zinc and iron deficiency, low serum sulfate, seizures, and mitochondrial disorder.

A fellow panelist reported that after Dr. Seneff’s presentation, “All of the 70 or so people in attendance were squirming, likely because they now had serious misgivings about serving their kids, or themselves, anything with corn or soy, which are nearly all genetically modified and thus tainted with Roundup and its glyphosate.”

I must admit, when I clicked on the link to the “correlation,” I couldn’t stop laughing. It was one of the most hilarious examples of confusing correlation with causation that I’ve ever seen. Take a look:

gloysphate

As I’ve pointed out time and time again, if you look at two different variables that have shown an increase with time, you can almost always make it look as though there’s a correlation. Only occasionally does that correlation equal causation. It was that claim that the “autism epidemic” began (i.e., autism prevalence started increasing dramatically) beginning in the early to mid-1990s and that that correlated with an expansion of the vaccines in the vaccine schedule or, in the US, that it correlated with the addition of mercury-containing vaccines to the vaccine schedule. From these observations, it was claimed, that it had to be the vaccines, or the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal used at the time in some childhood vaccines, that was causing autism. Lots and lots of epidemiology since then has confirmed that there is no detectable link, epidemiology that I’ve written about time and time again, but that hasn’t stopped the antivaccine movement. What the increase in autism prevalence corresponds to is really the expansion of diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorders that occurred in the early 1990s as well as increased screening for the condition, which, as I’ve pointed out, will always increase the prevalence of any condition.

One thing I like to do to demonstrate how correlation usually does not equal causation, particularly for looking at things like vaccines and autism, is to point out other things that have increased dramatically since the early 1990s or before. For example, in 1990 cell phone use was generally reserved for the few who could afford it, given the expense, who lived in cities where cell phone networks were available. In the 25 years since then, cell phone use has gone from uncommon to ubiquitous, where almost everyone has a cell phone, over half of which are smart phones. Why don’t cell phones cause autism? Obviously, it’s because babies don’t use cell phones, but there is a strong correlation between cell phone use in the population and autism. What about Internet use? Back in 1990, you accessed the online services using Compuserve or AOL. In the early 1990s, particularly after 1994 when Netscape was introduced, more and more people used the Internet. Why doesn’t Internet use cause autism?

Or, better yet, why doesn’t organic food cause autism:

19bm94ui3v59fpng

Obviously, this evidence is just as strong that organic food must be responsible for the autism “epidemic” as Seneff’s “evidence” that GMOs.

Actually, it’s not the GMOs per se that Seneff seems to be blaming here, but rather the glyphosate, which is the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup:

Dr. Seneff noted the ubiquity of glyphosate’s use. Because it is used on corn and soy, all soft drinks and candies sweetened with corn syrup and all chips and cereals that contain soy fillers have small amounts of glyphosate in them, as do our beef and poultry since cattle and chicken are fed GMO corn or soy. Wheat is often sprayed with Roundup just prior to being harvested, which means that all non-organic bread and wheat products would also be sources of glyphosate toxicity. The amount of glyphosate in each product may not be large, but the cumulative effect (especially with as much processed food as Americans eat) could be devastating. A recent study shows that pregnant women living near farms where pesticides are applied have a 60% increased risk of children having an autism spectrum disorder.

Note that I discussed that study before. It’s total crap.

In any case, glyphosate’s been widely used for decades and inhibits the enzyme 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase (EPSPS), which catalyzes the reaction of shikimate-3-phosphate (S3P) and phosphoenolpyruvate to form 5-enolpyruvyl-shikimate-3-phosphate (ESP). Because EPSPS is found only in plants and microorganisms, theoretically glyphosate shouldn’t have any major effects in humans. However, because there are frequently what we refer to in the biz as “off-target effects” (i.e., effects of a drug or chemical that do not depend on its primary target), it’s important to look at the safety of this pesticide in humans, which has, of course, been done. As I discovered this morning, Steve Novella notes several reviews that have failed to find associations between glyphosate and adverse health outcomes or cancer. Keith Kloor has also pointed out the shoddy science and incoherent arguments Seneff has been making, as has Layla Katiraee at the Genetic Literacy Project. Similarly, Derek Lowe pointed out that Seneff’s 2013 paper, upon which most of this fear mongering was based, has no original research, cherry picks studies, and manages not even to consider disconfirming publications. As he put it, “Far more is known about glyphosate toxicology and pharmacokinetics than you could ever imagine by reading it [Seneff’s review article].”

In fact, if you look at the slides for Seneff’s talks (e.g., this one, available at her MIT web page), you’ll find a tour de force of confusing correlation with causation, complete with a version of the first graph above, plus similar graphs purporting to correlate glyphosate use with deaths from senile dementia (gee, you don’t think that deaths from senile dementia might be rising because the population is aging and dementia is usually a disease of the elderly, do you?), obesity, celiac disease, deaths due to intestinal infection, and kidney disease death rate. She even cites the horribly done “pig stomach” GMO study that I deconstructed a while ago.

But what about Seneff’s prediction that half of all children will be autistic by 2025, which is only ten years away? Well, take a look at this graph in her talk:

Taiwan_July2014

Yes, she just extrapolates from current trends, assuming they’ll continue indefinitely! It’s almost as stupid as Julian Whitaker’s mind-blowingly idiotic extrapolation that predicted that 100% of boys will be autistic by 2031, with 100% of all girls autistic by 2041. Almost. It’s pretty close, though.

The bottom line is that the crank magnetism is strong in Dr. Seneff. She’s antivaccine and anti-GMO. She is full of Dunning-Kruger, thinking that she can transfer her computer science and artificial intelligence knowledge to knowledge of epidemiology, biochemistry, and medicine. She can’t. Happy New Years.

Comments

  1. #1 Matt
    March 12, 2015

    @Narad- You, on the other hand, have contributed absolutely nothing of relevance or value to the discussion. But that’s alright, because every good blog needs a resident troll to throw in irritating comments every time two other people actually converse.

    It’s alright. We all have our place in life. But while trolling can be entertaining, I am sorry to say that your skills leave a lot to be desired. But it’s not for lack of effort! So you just keep on trying there little guy and maybe one day you will grow up to be a fine troll. Heck… maybe you will get a real trolling job on television!

  2. #2 Matt
    March 12, 2015

    @ChrisP

    Here’s what it has to do with glyphosate. Glyphosate is just one of many thousands of chemicals that have been approved for use in our food production.

    Consumers are being asked to trust that various agencies have done rigorous safety testing to make sure our food supply is safe.

    Apparently- none of the safety testing done on ANY of these chemicals included assessing for possible detrimental effects on the microbiome- which according to pretty much everything I have read on the subject over the last 10 years or so indicates that the microbiome is pretty darn important when it comes to health.

    As for glyphosate… as I have said earlier… maybe it is a total red herring. I certainly understand the argument that it is WAY better than whatever we had before. That’s all cool with me.

    But you.. back in post #381 asked: Why should safety testing include assessing for harm to the microbiome?

    Since you are a real scientist that actually works on things like this… how about you tell me… why shouldn’t safety testing assess for harm to the microbiome?

  3. #3 Matt
    March 12, 2015

    As an aside… you know what I think is super funny? It’s the Sponsored Ad box near the top of this page that is currently attempting to get me to click on a picture of some freaky looking corn with the caption, “Monsanto Tried To BAN This Video” *facepalm*

  4. #4 Krebiozen
    March 12, 2015

    Matt,

    Apparently- none of the safety testing done on ANY of these chemicals included assessing for possible detrimental effects on the microbiome- which according to pretty much everything I have read on the subject over the last 10 years or so indicates that the microbiome is pretty darn important when it comes to health.

    If these hypothetical detrimental effects on the microbiome have no measurable impact on the growth, reproduction, lifespan or other aspects of health of an animal even when dosed, every day of its life, with more than a thousand times more glyphosate than any human would be exposed to in food, does it really matter?

    The ads displayed are related to whatever you have searched for recently, so you do get some weirdly inappropriate ones from time to time. Unless you block them of course.

  5. #5 Matt
    March 12, 2015

    Krebiozen…. How exactly would we know that these hypothetical detrimental effects have no measurable impact… if nobody has ever measured them?

  6. #6 Dangerous Bacon
    March 12, 2015

    Maybe if glyphosate applicators/farm workers who come into contact with the stuff frequently had “microbiome-associated diseases” (whatever those might be), it would make sense to pour research funding into investigating the effects of minute amounts on the “microbiome” of consumers.

    It’s doesn’t make a lot of sense to wave your hands and shout about the need to Protect The Microbiome from glyphosate/ the Nasty GMOs unless you have some actual evidence to back up your stated fears.

  7. #7 JGC
    March 12, 2015

    Matt, perhaps you could explain what observations would be indicative of “harm to the micorbiome” occurring, and why theses would not be seen in tests assessing direct toxicity?

  8. #8 Matt
    March 12, 2015

    @JGC

    From what I’ve read (and I’m [obviously] not a scientist) the microbiome not only plays an important role in the etiology of many GI diseases, but also can influence autoimmune disorders, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and even psychiatric disorders… just to name a few.

    Therefore, an increase in the prevalence of any of these diseases could justify an investigation into the potential effects of these chemicals on the microbiome.

    Again- let me reiterate- glyphosate is just ONE of thousands of these chemical agents that have been declared safe for our food. It could be any one of them. Or all of them together.

    Direct toxicity tests are assessing effects on animal cells. That tells us nothing about effects on bacterial cells.

  9. #9 JGC
    March 12, 2015

    How do you propose we look for increasesd incidence of autoimmune disorders, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and psychiatric disorders associated with the consumptions of produce grown using glyphosphate herbicides prior to licensing the use of glyphosphate as an herbicide? Describe the protocol.

    I’m particularly interested in your calculation of the sample size and trial duration required to detect statistically significant increases in the incidence of these diseases.

    (BTW, direct toxicity assessments also include exposing whole organisms to the compound at known doses,and conducting detailed necropsies there after.)

  10. #10 Vicki
    March 12, 2015

    Matt–

    What’s so (black) magical about glyphosate? Why is that your priority, when the food supply is full of other substances that also haven’t been tested as you advocate? Where is the experimental data to assure me that it’s safe for me to eat a carrot, or to consume pork that has been fed partly on acorns? Do you know whether shallots will have an effect on my microbiome, and whether that depends on whether I’m also eating salmon?

  11. #11 Krebiozen
    March 12, 2015

    Matt,

    Krebiozen…. How exactly would we know that these hypothetical detrimental effects have no measurable impact… if nobody has ever measured them?

    The health of experimental animals is monitored in multiple ways, including behavioral changes and the ability to run mazes etc. and their organs are closely examined after death to look for any signs of a problem. I would expect any “GI diseases, […] autoimmune disorders, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and even psychiatric disorders” to be picked up easily. What kind of health problem has no effect on an animal’s reproductive capacity, lifespan, growth curve, organs or behavior?

    There’s a good summary and explanation of glyphosate safety studies on Monsanto’s website here which explains:

    In sub-chronic and chronic oral toxicity studies, groups of test animals are given various daily doses, from zero to thousands of milligrams per kilogram of their body weight. At the end of a designated exposure period, virtually every organ system and physiological parameter is examined to determine any differences between exposed and non-exposed test animals.

    The highest tested dose level that produces no observed adverse effects is 175 mg/kg/day in rabbits. This is divided by a safety factor of 100 to give the reference dose of 1.75 mg/kg/day in humans. In an average 70 kg adult that’s up to 122.5 mg of glyphosate per day. Unless someone regularly eats 3 kg (6.6 pounds) or 1.5 kg (3.3 pounds) of barley every day, they are not going to get close to that reference dose which, remember, includes a safety factor of 100. Monsanto points out:

    In May 2013, EPA established new tolerances for residues of glyphosate. At that time, the agency concluded that even children 1-2 years old, the population receiving the greatest exposure, were exposed to no more than 13 percent of the allowable intake through food (U.S. EPA 2013).

    If children only get 13% of the RfD that’s 0.13% of the amount required to produce measurable changes in a rabbit.

    I know some substances can have effects on humans that aren’t picked up in some animals (Thalidomide springs to mind), but is there any substance that has adverse effects on humans in doses 1,000-fold lower than in a range of animals?

  12. #12 Jen Phillips
    March 12, 2015

    Trying to catch up with this conversation, so sorry if I missed a bit that I’m about to repeat, but to the general query of ‘why hasn’t glyphosate toxicity been tested on microbiota?’, I would argue that it has, indirectly. None of the animal feed/exposure studies have been conducted in germ-free or gnotobiotic animals, therefore, gut bacteria present in those subjects were exposed to the levels of glyphosate being tested.

    No, it’s not a direct test, but that’s probably for the best. The only reason we care about gut bacteria at all is because of their demonstrable impact on the health of the animal in whose guts they reside. At the end of the day, it wouldn’t really matter if glyphosate caused health problems through direct interaction with human cells or through a secondary reaction caused by adverse glyphosate impact on gut bacteria–the health problems to the host animal is what we care about.

    Happily, that does not appear to be the case, despite extensive long term testing.

  13. #13 Dangerous Bacon
    March 12, 2015

    “Again- let me reiterate- glyphosate is just ONE of thousands of these chemical agents that have been declared safe for our food. It could be any one of them. Or all of them together.”

    Or none of them have any significant clinical effect. Had you considered that possibility?

  14. #14 Matt
    March 12, 2015

    @Vicki-

    Have you been reading the thread?

    The “magical” thing about glyphosate is that it inhibits a biochemical pathway that is utilized by gut microbes. However, as Krebiozen and others have been pointing out (somewhat convincingly to me I might add) it does not appear that glyphosate residues in food are coming close to the MIC for bacteria.

    Other than that- no there isn’t any reason to single out glyphosate as special among the thousands of other chemicals that are present in our food.

    The broader issue is if we should be considering the potential effects of these chemicals on the microbiome as part of our standard safety testing.

  15. #15 Jen Phillips
    March 12, 2015

    The broader issue is if we should be considering the potential effects of these chemicals on the microbiome as part of our standard safety testing.

    addressed in #413.

  16. #16 Matt
    March 12, 2015

    @JGC

    Great question! How about a study like this one?

    Unfortunately- intellectual property laws bar somebody like me from accessing this research without first coughing up $40 to take a closer look at the study to see what exactly they did. But it looks like the researchers came up with a functional model for the human gut microbiome.

    Why not do a study just like this and use glyphosate instead of the chlorpyrifos?

  17. #17 JGC
    March 12, 2015

    Matt, McAffee intervenes and prevents me from tolling the link you provided. can you provide instead a PMID number or the titlle, pubication date and first author of the study?

  18. #18 JGC
    March 12, 2015

    That aside, I’m curious–how exactly can the author’s tell that their model of the human gut microbiome has developed a psychiatric disorder in response to exposure to chlorpyrifos or glyphosate?

  19. #19 herr doktor bimler
    March 12, 2015
  20. #20 herr doktor bimler
    March 12, 2015

    a Simulator of the Human Intestinal Microbial Ecosystem: the SHIME® and in rats. The SHIME® comprises six reactor vessels (stomach to colon).
    Wim Delvoye’s Cloaca machine was meant to be a joke.

  21. #21 JGC
    March 12, 2015

    Okay, so they’re looking at relative expression of populations of gut-associated bateria. Given that they’re dosing their reactor with a bucket load of chlorpirifos (1 mg a day for 30 days) and it’s already established that glyphosate exposure as the result of consuming produce where it’s been used as an herbicide is below the level at which we observe any effects, wouldn’t we predict we wouldn’t see any dysbiosis if we “do a study just like this and use glyphosate instead of the chlorpyrifos”?

  22. #22 Matt
    March 12, 2015

    @JGC

    Sure- since the prevailing view is that current levels of glyphosate exposure from food is totally safe, then we would predict no dysbiosis.

    So given an ADI of 1.75 mg/kg, and an average body mass of 85 kg, then I would propose dosing the reactor with 150 mg glyphosate per day for 30 days.

  23. #23 Krebiozen
    March 12, 2015

    Matt,

    The “magical” thing about glyphosate is that it inhibits a biochemical pathway that is utilized by gut microbes.

    I don’t think so. I think the effects found in the Roundup studies we have discussed are due to the surfactants in the formula, not the glyphosate. Simple dish-washing liquid is similarly toxic to bacteria, and glyphosate alone doesn’t have that effect (if we can trust anything Seralini has co-authored). Wash your vegetables before eating them and all should be well.

  24. #24 Matt
    March 12, 2015

    Krebiozen,

    The Shikimate Pathway

    “The shikimate pathway is found only in microorganisms and plants, never in animals. All enzymes of this pathway have been obtained in pure form from prokaryotic and eukaryotic sources and their respective DNAs have been characterized from several organisms.”

  25. #25 ChrisP
    March 12, 2015

    Since you are a real scientist that actually works on things like this… how about you tell me… why shouldn’t safety testing assess for harm to the microbiome?

    Starting with this piece first. While it is acknowledge that a healthy microbiome is necessary for overall health, what we don’t know is what constitutes a healthy microbiome. We only know what an unhealthy microbiome looks like and then only because of the explosion of certain species that lead to problems.

    So the first question becomes: what do you measure? There is as yet no internationally agreed measure of a healthy microbiome.

    The second question becomes: how do you measure it? There is as yet no internationally agreed procedure to measure the microbiome.

    On top of that, everything you eat changes your microbiome. If you decide to go vegetarian that will change the composition of your microbiome, if you have a big night at the pub the composition of your microbiome will change. So what is normal? If tests were done and the microbiome changed, what would this mean?

    There are a whole host of possible things to measure in toxicity testing. However, meaningless data is completely unhelpful in making informed decisions. Indeed, they can mean the wrong decision is made.

    So what toxicity testing does is look at factors such as growth and development of the test animal, major organ growth, development and function, carcinogenicity, teratogenicity, etc. If a chemical is having an impact on the microbiome, but that impact does not show up in an effect on growth, development or major organ function then that impact cannot be very important for overall health.

    So really to sum up, there is no need to specifically measure effects on the microbiome for every molecule regulated, because any health effects that would result will be captured by the current toxicity tests.

    As for glyphosate… as I have said earlier… maybe it is a total red herring.

    And I have pointed out why. The concentration in food is about 2 orders of magnitude too low to have any inhibitory effect on bacteria.

  26. #26 ChrisP
    March 12, 2015

    Why not do a study just like this and use glyphosate instead of the chlorpyrifos?

    Perhaps we should look at what the paper found?

    It used an artificial system to attempt to mimic what might happen to bacterial in the human gut. Long-term chlorpyrifos feeding at 100 times the ADI for chlorpyrifos of both the artificial gut and rats led to changes in the bacterial systems present. However, these changes were not the same. The artificial system was more sensitive to chlorpyifos than the rat gut, so would be likely to over-estimate the changes.

    So far so good, but what does this mean for health? Would the same changes occur at the ADI? Are the changes observed detrimental to health?

  27. #27 Dangerous Bacon
    March 12, 2015

    All this glyphosate focus detracts from the other potential causes of microbiome interference which could cause a whole host of diseases.

    Dr. Joe Mercola, who is heavily into this subject, points to the following likely culprits:

    “[T]he consumption of fermented foods..vaccines using human fetal cell lines and retroviral contaminants..all processed foods, sugar, antibiotics (including CAFO meats and antibacterial soaps), and birth control pills prior to conception as these cause yeast and fungi to grow and also cause leaky gut….Processed, refined foods in general…artificial sweeteners and other synthetic additives…refined grains…Wheat Germ Agglutinin…genetically engineered (GE) ingredients (primarily corn and soy), which have been shown to be particularly detrimental to beneficial bacteria..Eating genetically engineered Bt corn may turn your intestinal flora into a sort of “living pesticide factory,” essentially manufacturing Bt-toxin from within your digestive system on a continuing basis…

    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/10/06/culprits-autism.aspx

    And don’t forget aspartame and fluoride in the water.

    The best thing to do is probably hide under your bed, and/or become a breatharian (but in the latter case, make sure your home’s air is ultrafiltrated to keep out all toxins).

  28. #28 Narad
    March 12, 2015

    Unfortunately- intellectual property laws bar somebody like me from accessing this research without first coughing up $40 getting a library card to take a closer look at the study to see what exactly they did.

    FTFY.

  29. #29 Narad
    March 12, 2015

    But that’s alright, because every good blog needs a resident troll to throw in irritating comments every time two other people actually converse.

    As with “evidenced,” you demonstrate that this whole “meanings of words” thing really isn’t your strong suit.

  30. #30 JGC
    March 12, 2015

    Matt, 150 mg/kg daily is about 16 times greater than the current levels of glyphosate exposure we receive from our diet (which is estmated to be about 5.5% of the ADI (PMID:22261298). If that’s what you’re looking to model you’ll want to dose the reactors with just over 9 mgs per day (about 16 times less than you propose).

    You almost seem to be trying to design an experiment in such a way to maximize the likelihood dysbiosis will be seen,.

  31. #31 Jen Phillips
    March 12, 2015

    As with “evidenced,” you demonstrate that this whole “meanings of words” thing really isn’t your strong suit.

    Extra funny considering that the motivation for his flounce from the comments on the Oregon Vax post today was inability to grok the legislative use of ’emergency’ in re: the status of a senate bill.

  32. #32 Narad
    March 12, 2015

    But while trolling can be entertaining, I am sorry to say that your skills leave a lot to be desired. But it’s not for lack of effort!

    Perhaps the best part here is that I had previously directed precisely one comment at Matt.

  33. #33 Dangerous Bacon
    March 12, 2015

    Maybe we should be looking much more closely at interventions that _aim_ to disturb the gut microbiome (sort of destroying the village to save it). Of course, I am talking about colon cleanses to remove “toxins” which believers think cannot be handled by various bodily systemts including the resident gut flora. Thus we have harsh remedies like coffee enemas – ever think what a whole mess of caffeine and other coffee components might do to one’s hapless little microbiome friends?

    And what of all the supplements and probiotics we’re pouring down there willy-nilly? Maybe it’s gotten to be like a transient hotel in your colon, with new populations of microorganisms constantly arriving and being killed off with each new product that the host tries.

    I say we need to be very very careful before allowing the use of these supplements and cleanses, in order to protect our vital colonic fluids.

  34. #34 herr doktor bimler
    March 12, 2015

    Why not do a study just like this and use glyphosate instead of the chlorpyrifos?
    Perhaps we should look at what the paper found?

    First the inventors of the SHIME® machine will have to convince people that its simulation of human digestion is sufficiently realistic. I want to know what happens when they dose it with five pints of Fullers ESB and a hot Rogan Josh.

  35. #35 ChrisP
    March 12, 2015

    I want to know what happens when they dose it with five pints of Fullers ESB and a hot Rogan Josh.

    I am guessing they are going to have to batten down the hatches after that to make sure there is not an explosion.

  36. #36 Narad
    March 12, 2015

    One thing I’ve just been reminded of is that it’s not actually Seneff who’s responsible for seemingly endless series of dumb charts – that’s Nancy Swanson, of “Abacus Enterprises” (note the file name; this person also should not be offering Web design services).

  37. #37 Matt
    March 12, 2015

    @JGC

    According to this source:

    “The current daily intake of glyphosate by individuals in the US is estimated, based on food intake data and assuming all foods carry maximal allowable residues, at about 13% of the ADI (or 230 ug per kg of body weight) from residues in or on foods. This is a maximum-case estimate. Tests for glyphosate in samples of urine suggest the typical dietary intake is well below 1% of the ADI or less than 17.5 ug per kg of body weight.”

    I just picked the ADI because it’s the ADI.

  38. #38 Matt
    March 12, 2015

    @Dangerous Bacon

    Maybe we should be looking much more closely at interventions that _aim_ to disturb the gut microbiome (sort of destroying the village to save it).

    Maybe we should. But then we might risk getting chastised for lending credibility to quack therapies by studying them.

    And what of all the supplements and probiotics we’re pouring down there willy-nilly?

    … and don’t forget the antibiotics we get willy-nilly prescribed just because we’ve got a little sniffle!

  39. #39 Matt
    March 12, 2015

    @ChrisP

    So the first question becomes: what do you measure? There is as yet no internationally agreed measure of a healthy microbiome.

    How about microbial diversity?

    The second question becomes: how do you measure it? There is as yet no internationally agreed procedure to measure the microbiome.

    Measuring the microbiome: perspectives on advances in DNA-based techniques for exploring microbial life.

    On top of that, everything you eat changes your microbiome.

    That’s a good point. Although if I recall correctly, as little as 3 years ago such a statement was met with incredulity, and the usual sneers and jeers.

    So what is normal?

    Dunno. What IS normal? Whatever we would find in an “otherwise healthy” population of people who subsist primarily on sugary cereals, white bread salami sandwiches, ramen noodles, pizza, pop, and beer, I suppose.

    If tests were done and the microbiome changed, what would this mean?

    Who can say? I’m sure there would be many different opinions and interpretations. All the uncertainty you raise makes it sound like an even BETTER idea to start these experiments sooner rather than later!

    So really to sum up, there is no need to specifically measure effects on the microbiome for every molecule regulated, because any health effects that would result will be captured by the current toxicity tests.

    I still don’t see how you are drawing that conclusion. There are many potential effects that are outside of those you mentioned. How about susceptibility to infection? Cognitive or behavioral effects? Hormone or blood sugar effects?

    Just because something isn’t outright killing people doesn’t mean we should ignore possible harm.

  40. #40 Jen Phillips
    March 12, 2015

    and don’t forget the antibiotics we get willy-nilly prescribed just because we’ve got a little sniffle!

    I’m not denying that overprescription of antibiotics happens, or happened to the extent that resistant strains gained a foothold, but I dispute that ‘willy nilly’ distribution is still a thing. The medical community is dealing with the consequences of past indiscretions, but on the whole I think they’ve learned from their mistakes. I have certainly not seen a provider in the past decade who offered up antibiotics without really good reason.

  41. #41 Matt
    March 12, 2015

    Say I found a link to this fun little microbiome quiz hosted by Stanford in my inbox. Got a 90%!

  42. #42 Matt
    March 12, 2015

    @Jen Phillips

    Would you consider acne a really good reason?

    Considering that we’ve known about beneficial gut bacteria for just as long as we’ve known about pathogenic bacteria… I’m very curious to know what was the justification for a good 50 years’ worth of those “past indiscretions” by physicians.

    … gee I wonder why so many people don’t trust their doctors…

  43. #43 Narad
    March 12, 2015

    … gee I wonder why so many people don’t trust their doctors…

    How many is that?

  44. #44 Matt
    March 12, 2015
  45. #45 Jen Phillips
    March 12, 2015

    Approximately 1 in 3.

    Wrong. This info is from a Gallup Poll that asked people to rank how much trust they had in about a dozen different professionals, including health care professionals. The latest data I found, from the 2013 poll (more recent than what’s cited in Matt’s link, although the numbers haven’t moved much) show:
    69% of respondents reported a high or very high degree of trust for Medical Doctors.
    27% had an *average degree of trust
    3% had a low or very low degree of trust.

    (breakdown available in a PDF from the article I’ve linked to)

    So the 1 in 3 figure is BS.

  46. #46 Narad
    March 12, 2015

    Approximately 1 in 3.

    It’s cute that your intellectual sloth oozes through even in this one. (In fact, if you could see beyond the end of your nose, you would have understood this. Instead, you complain about “irritating comments every time two other people actually converse,” which is… curious.)

    Just for the sake of lifting a finger, let’s turn to The Question.

    So, four and a half years ago, 1 in 3.45 people reported that they checked or researched their physician’s advice. And this is what you proffer in support of your disconnected effort?

    Would you consider acne a really good reason?

    Considering that we’ve known about beneficial gut bacteria for just as long as we’ve known about pathogenic bacteria… I’m very curious to know what was the justification for a good 50 years’ worth of those “past indiscretions” by physicians.

    … gee I wonder why so many people don’t trust their doctors…

    This seems to be a characteristic trait: You throw out blobovianisms – in this case, soooo many people distrust their doctors – and then scrabble around for random crap to toss out – in this case, a Gallup snapshot showing that a strong majority of people accept their doctor’s opinion without question* – until you manage to secure a foothold on a working evasion of everything that has gone before.

    * Hell, I’d easily be in the 29%; to say that I “don’t trust” my doctors would be a gross mischaracterization. Sure, I “trust” specialists “more than” my PCP in their specialty, but so does my PCP.

  47. #47 Jen Phillips
    March 12, 2015

    I could well be in that 29% too, depending on how the questions were worded. I have an ‘average’ amount of trust for most people by default.

  48. #48 Jen Phillips
    March 12, 2015

    Oh, whoops, I didn’t follow ‘The Question’ link to see where the percentages were coming from. Yeah, but that too. No way I’m not going to do my own research on most any medical issue.

  49. #49 ChrisP
    March 12, 2015

    How about microbial diversity?

    Why would measuring the total number of different organisms present be better than measuring the number of each organism present?

    Problems typically occur when a single organism with damaging features grows into large numbers.

    Measuring the microbiome: perspectives on advances in DNA-based techniques for exploring microbial life.

    That is simply a review of current and future technologies that might help understand the microbiome. It dies not set out a method for accurately and repeatably measuring the microbiome.

    That’s a good point. Although if I recall correctly, as little as 3 years ago such a statement was met with incredulity, and the usual sneers and jeers.

    I very much doubt that was the case in the scientific community. If for no other reason than the 2005 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.

    Who can say? I’m sure there would be many different opinions and interpretations. All the uncertainty you raise makes it sound like an even BETTER idea to start these experiments sooner rather than later!

    And herein lies the crux of the matter. What is the point of insisting on toxicity tests where the results cannot be interpreted? You would just be killing animals for no discernible benefit. The ethics of that would be dubious.

  50. #50 Narad
    March 12, 2015

    Yeah, but that too. No way I’m not going to do my own research on most any medical issue.

    Yah, this is a matter of course in my case. However, the outcome is trying to ask well-formed, specific questions questions, since I’m the one holding The Continuity. Surgical consult:

    “Wait, you don’t have any symptoms of gall bladder problems?”

    “No, the ultrasound was for a putative hernia, but I’ve since come to think that it’s a diastatis recti.”

    “Get on the table.”

    “Lift your….”

    “See?”

    “Yup, that’s a diastasis.”

    “Purely cosmetic?”

    “Yes. And I’d make you quit smoking for at least a month before even considering it.”

    Followed by a discussion of how tobacco use also weakens one’s connective tissue and a description of what such abdominoplasty actually involves. What they did leave out was the Tupler exercises and a reminder to check whether my insurance covers NRT. (It does.)

  51. #51 JP
    March 13, 2015

    God, sometimes I’m glad I’m 27. Also, I should really quit smoking, even if it’s mostly just when I drink. Or when I’m in Eastern Europe.

  52. #52 Krebiozen
    March 13, 2015

    Matt,

    “The shikimate pathway is found only in microorganisms and plants, never in animals. All enzymes of this pathway have been obtained in pure form from prokaryotic and eukaryotic sources and their respective DNAs have been characterized from several organisms.”

    I know about ESPS synthase. Glyphosate alone had little effect on probiotic bacterial growth in Seralini’s in vitro study* (full text version available here), even at concentrations of over 1,000 mg/L, whereas Roundup inhibited bacterial growth at 100 mg/L. That leads me to conclude that it cannot be ESPS inhibition that has effects on bacteria at concentrations of less than 1,000 mg/L.

    * See Figure 1, where I assume that when the authors refer to “triangles” they mean “diamonds”; ppm is equivalent to mg/L.

  53. […] naturopaths contribute to the fear mongering about vaccines and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the latter of which leads the lack of political will to strengthen vaccine […]

  54. #54 Krebiozen
    March 13, 2015

    To clarify: it could be that the surfactants in Roundup increase susceptibility to glyphosate, perhaps allowing more to enter bacterial cells. Even if so, I would expect these to be washed off crops before harvest, or before consumption. Residue tests look at glyphosate, not surfactants.

  55. #55 JGC
    March 13, 2015

    Matt, your source for the 13% estimate states itself 9bold for emphasis) “The current maximum intake of glyphosate by individuals in the US is estimated to be about 13% of the ADI, about seven-and-a-half times less than the ADI. This is an over-estimate of exposure.

    Again, it seems as if you’re trying to design the experiment to maximize the odds dysbiosis will be seen to occur

  56. #56 Matt
    March 13, 2015

    Narad-

    What is a blobovianism?

    The comment in question was more of a causal one… I wasn’t expecting to have to defend it with rigorous data although I suppose I shouldn’t be that surprised.

    My comment wasn’t meant to be interpreted as “soooo” many people distrust their doctors. Just one “o” in the so. It’s just a figure of speech.

  57. #57 Matt
    March 13, 2015

    Krebiozen-

    First you deny that bacteria have the metabolic pathway targeted by glyphosate. Then you say you already know that they do have the pathway. So which is it?

    I think your point about the surfactants is a good one, and worth considering.

  58. #58 Matt
    March 13, 2015

    @JGC

    I can’t speak to why something would “seem” a certain way to you. As I said, I picked the ADI because it’s the ADI.

    It would certainly be reasonable to use a number more consistent with the actual amount of glyphosate we would expect an “average” person to consume. But it seems that number is hard to determine. I’m fine with 13% for the purposes of the discussion.

  59. #59 Krebiozen
    March 13, 2015

    Matt,

    First you deny that bacteria have the metabolic pathway targeted by glyphosate. Then you say you already know that they do have the pathway. So which is it?

    You misunderstand me; that’s my fault for not being clear. By “I don’t think so”, I meant that I don’t believe the concentration of glyphosate was high enough to be the mechanism by which Roundup inhibited probiotic bacteria in the Awad et al study. I’m well aware that most bacteria have ESPS.

    I think your point about the surfactants is a good one, and worth considering.

    In vitro toxicity studies can be very misleading. There are a million things that will inhibit or kill bacteria in a petri dish far more effectively than glyphosate, including many substances we are exposed to on a regular basis.
    Bottom line – if I had a million dollars to use for some interesting and useful research on the microbiome, glyphosate would be a long way down the list of things that I would consider spending the money on.

  60. #60 Matt
    March 13, 2015

    @ChrisP

    Why would measuring the total number of different organisms present be better than measuring the number of each organism present?

    I don’t know if it would necessarily be better, but aren’t there somewhere between 500-1000 different species present in the human microbiome? How could we possibly measure them all?

    Problems typically occur when a single organism with damaging features grows into large numbers.

    Right. So wouldn’t that be reflected in lower overall diversity?

    Then again- I’m wondering if species diversity is even the most appropriate measure…? What if genetic representation of biochemical function is more important?

    Isn’t it true that different bacteria can swap genes? [i recall asking that question in an undergrad biology class about 20 years ago and being condescendingly assured that such a thing was quite impossible.]

    That is simply a review of current and future technologies that might help understand the microbiome. It dies not set out a method for accurately and repeatably measuring the microbiome.

    Yes, I know. Just putting it as a reference as to the current state of affairs. So would you agree that it is important that we develop these methods? Do you have any ideas about what could possibly work?

    And herein lies the crux of the matter. What is the point of insisting on toxicity tests where the results cannot be interpreted? You would just be killing animals for no discernible benefit. The ethics of that would be dubious.

    I thought we were discussing whether or not they should be done. If there is no way to actually do it in a reliable fashion, then of course trying to do it would be pointless.

    But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth looking into, and developing the technology so that we can.

    As I said way back when in this thread- I think that we should be cautious that we are not committing the genetic fallacy or the fallacy fallacy when dismissing the types of claims made the likes of Seneff, which this blog post was originally about.

    Which is why I am asking- setting Seneff aside- do we actually have clear evidence to show that glyphosate residues present in food do NOT cause harm to the microbiome?

    Krebiozen- says yes but has to take two disparate data sets and piece them together to draw a conclusion. I don’t agree that constitutes clear evidence. He also suggests maybe it is the combination of the glyphosate itself with the surfactant adjuvants present in the spray.

    Maybe so. I don’t know. But I still think it is a question worth asking.

    You have made a solid case that we simply just can’t answer that question right now in a reliable, expedient, and/or cost-effective manner. Fair enough.

    But that doesn’t mean it’s not a question worth asking.

  61. #61 Matt
    March 13, 2015

    @Krebiozen

    You misunderstand me; that’s my fault for not being clear. By “I don’t think so”, I meant that I don’t believe the concentration of glyphosate was high enough to be the mechanism by which Roundup inhibited probiotic bacteria in the Awad et al study. I’m well aware that most bacteria have ESPS.

    Ahhhhh, got it! Geez it is really tough to have a conversation in this format.

    In vitro toxicity studies can be very misleading. There are a million things that will inhibit or kill bacteria in a petri dish far more effectively than glyphosate, including many substances we are exposed to on a regular basis.

    Sure, I understand. I hope I didn’t give an impression otherwise.

    Bottom line – if I had a million dollars to use for some interesting and useful research on the microbiome, glyphosate would be a long way down the list of things that I would consider spending the money on.

    Fair enough. What would be on the top of your list?

  62. #62 ann
    March 13, 2015

    Krebiozen- says yes but has to take two disparate data sets and piece them together to draw a conclusion.

    And the problem with that is?

    Because when trying to determine the import of something and/or anything, taking objectively existing conditions into account is generally considered to be a good — and even necessary — practice among thoughtful people.

  63. #63 Matt
    March 13, 2015

    @Ann

    And the problem with that is?

    The “problem” is that the question I asked is if there were any studies showing that glyphosate was harmless to gut bacteria. Turns out- there’s actually not.

    It doesn’t mean that I don’t think his argument makes sense. It does make sense. What doesn’t make sense is why the authors of the study looking at the MICs of glyphosate on gut bacteria didn’t conclude that there was no cause for concern.

  64. #64 ChrisP
    March 14, 2015

    Which is why I am asking- setting Seneff aside- do we actually have clear evidence to show that glyphosate residues present in food do NOT cause harm to the microbiome?

    Yes we do. In the experiments determining minimum inhibitory concentrations of glyphosate for bacterial species that are part of the microbiome the MIC values determined are about 2 orders of magnitude higher than the maximum amount of glyphosate found in food.

    So as I said once before, unless you are going to drink glyphosate …

    As for Seneff, yes we should dismiss her claims, because they are completely without evidence. In fact, the evidence she presents in support is mostly made up.

  65. #65 Krebiozen
    March 14, 2015

    Matt,

    What doesn’t make sense is why the authors of the study looking at the MICs of glyphosate on gut bacteria didn’t conclude that there was no cause for concern.

    As I wrote earlier, I suspect bias. There is a faction of people, including some scientists, who are ardently opposed to biotechnology in general and Monsanto products in particular. For example, Séralini’s papers on the effects of GM foods, which have been discussed here and elsewhere. If you start with a conclusion and look for evidence to support it, it is easy to fool yourself into thinking you have, a phenomenon known as confirmation bias,

    The more I look at that paper (authored by Awad A. Shehata, not ‘Awad’, as I mistakenly wrote above) the more puzzling I find it. As I mentioned before, they clearly used glyphosate concentrations ranging from 0.075 to 5.0 mg/mL to assess bacterial sensitivity, yet they report that:

    On the other hand, with the exception of Lactobacillus spp., all tested beneficial bacteria including E. faecalis, E. faecium and B. badius, B. cereus and B. adolescentis were highly sensitive to glyphosate with MIC value of 0.15, 0.15, 0.30 and 0.075 µg/ml, respectively.

    In Table 2 they report a MIC of 0.075 mg/mL for Bifidobacterium adolescentis, which is equivalent to 75 mg/L or 75 ppm. If probiotic bacteria were really affect by levels as low as 0.075 µg/mL, or 0.075 ppm, I would be concerned too, but I don’t believe this is the case (the Séralini study I cited before supports this*).

    Later in the study they state, “Some poultry and cattle feed samples in Germany were found to have 0.4–0.9 mg glyphosate/kg”, which is equivalent to 0.4-0.9 ppm, and refer to water contamination with glyphosate of 0.10 to 0.70 mg/l which is equivalent to 0.10-0.70 ppm. They then state:

    Glyphosate daily intake could be hazardous if feed and/or water contain high glyphosate residues; further work is urgently required to determine the real glyphosate residues in animal feed originated from different countries.

    Why are they concerned when the maximum concentration of glyphosate found in feed and water is 80 times lower than the minimum found to inhibit probiotic bacteria? Is it possible they have conflated µg/mL with mg/mL, a factor of 1,000? It does look suspiciously like it to me.

    * Which is ironic since as this article in Forbes suggests, “Séralini has made a specialty of methodologically flawed, irrelevant, uninterpretable — but over-interpreted — experiments intended to demonstrate harm from genetically engineered plants and the herbicide glyphosate in various highly contrived scenarios.”

  66. #66 ann
    March 14, 2015

    The “problem” is that the question I asked is if there were any studies showing that glyphosate was harmless to gut bacteria. Turns out- there’s actually not.

    Unless the absence of studies, in and of itself, acts on the human microbiome as an antibiotic, I don’t see why that should be a problem for the purposes of the present discussion.

    It doesn’t mean that I don’t think his argument makes sense. It does make sense.

    Then what’s your objection to it?

    What doesn’t make sense is why the authors of the study looking at the MICs of glyphosate on gut bacteria didn’t conclude that there was no cause for concern.

    When someone who’s making you a job offer names the salary, do you require them to prove it will cover your living expenses, on the grounds that there’s no other way of knowing for sure that you won’t starve?

    Or do you take two disparate data sets and piece them together to draw a conclusion?

  67. #67 Matt
    March 14, 2015

    @Ann

    I really do appreciate you continuing to make an effort to understand what I am trying to say. I’m quite sure if we could have a real conversation face to face, you wouldn’t be so befuddled.

    Unless the absence of studies, in and of itself, acts on the human microbiome as an antibiotic, I don’t see why that should be a problem for the purposes of the present discussion.

    The absence of studies- collectively speaking- very well could be a problem. If we are systematically overlooking microbiome effects in our testing models- that sounds like a potentially huge problem to me.

    Thousands of chemicals, thousands of drugs (including gobs of antibiotics), and yes, even thousands of naturally-occurring substances, that human beings put in their mouths on a daily basis, and hardly anybody is considering the impact on the microbiome?

    How is that not a problem?

    Then what’s your objection to it?

    It was never an objection. It was a question. The question was: Do we have any studies demonstrating that glyphosate residues on food do not cause harm to the human gut microbiome?

    Or do you take two disparate data sets and piece them together to draw a conclusion?

    Your example really has nothing to do with the topic at hand.

    If I had said: Are there any studies showing that glyphosate is not carcinogenic?

    You could respond: Yes. Here are the pile of studies.

    If I had said: Are there any studies showing that glyphosate is not directly toxic to animal cells?

    You could respond: Yes. Here are the pile of studies.

    If I had said: Are there any studies showing that glyphosate does not bioaccumulate in the body?

    You could respond: Yes. Here are the pile of studies.

    When I say: Are there any studies showing that glyphosate is not harmful to the microbiome.

    You would say: No- not really. There are a couple of studies that have begun to look into the issue. But these studies are problematic, and it appears that the authors might have had some confirmation bias and/or misinterpreted their own data.

  68. #68 Matt
    March 14, 2015

    @ChrisP

    Yes we do. In the experiments determining minimum inhibitory concentrations of glyphosate for bacterial species that are part of the microbiome the MIC values determined are about 2 orders of magnitude higher than the maximum amount of glyphosate found in food.

    Yes, I understand this. But the authors seem to be confused, since they did not conclude that their data demonstrated it was safe. Confirmation bias? Data misinterpretation? Just plain making shit up?

    Why should we trust their data if their intentions and/or skill is so questionable?

    How about this question: Has Monsanto published any studies demonstrating that glyphosate does not harm gut bacteria? If not, why not?

    So as I said once before, unless you are going to drink glyphosate …

    I don’t care for the taste of RoundUp. Plus it makes me kind of foam at the mouth. 😉

    But in all seriousness… no I am not drinking glyphosate. But if I consider the collective amount all the thousands of chemicals that various agencies are assuring me are so safe… but none of them are evaluated for effects on microbiome… why shouldn’t I question it?

    I like my microbiome. I am of the understanding that a healthy, robust, diverse microbiome is an important factor in my overall health, and I want to stay healthy.

    The way I see it… there’s a whole ecosystem down there in my gut, and I want to preserve it. I might not be able to save the rainforests, but maybe there is something I can do about my own internal ecosystem.

    Do you have any suggestions?

  69. #69 Matt
    March 14, 2015

    @Krebiozen

    As I wrote earlier, I suspect bias.

    Alright. Then, along with all the other good questions you’ve raised about the study… why should we lend it any credibility, whatsoever? If the research is so shoddy, how can we even trust their raw data?

    There is a faction of people, including some scientists, who are ardently opposed to biotechnology in general and Monsanto products in particular.

    With respect to the element of that faction who are actual scientists… why are they opposed? In your opinion, are there any valid reasons why we should be skeptical about biotechnology? If so, what are they?

  70. #70 Jen Phillips
    March 14, 2015

    With respect to the element of that faction who are actual scientists… why are they opposed?

    Different reasons. In some cases, as the other side is so fond of saying, one only needs to follow the money. Seralini, for example, has a clear, vested interest in finding problems with GMOs. Somewhat related would be the vanity/fame factor. Not many people would know who Seralini, or Carmann, or Seneff were had they not published such contrarian rubbish.

    Somewhere on the more rational side of the spectrum from those people, though, are a minority of scientists who had genuine, legitimate concerns about the technology but made the mistake of settling into those biases and not leaving room in their minds for the answers to those concerns.

    I know quite a few biologists who, having worked firsthand with a lot of the types of technologies used in bioengineered crops, did indeed have some legitimate worries about over-use, ecosystem imbalances, etc. With one exception, all have been satisfied with the extensive testing and problem solving for introducing new GE traits. The one colleague who is still opposed is now the go-to guy in his region for reporters want to present ‘the other side’.

  71. #71 Narad
    March 14, 2015

    I see that Seneff & Swanson have unleashed a real tour de force in another zeroth-tier journal:

    Aluminum and Glyphosate Can Synergistically Induce Pineal Gland Pathology: Connection to Gut Dysbiosis and Neurological Disease.

  72. #72 Jen Phillips
    March 14, 2015

    Nice! Anti-vax (aluminum) and Anti-GMO (glyphosate): two great tastes that taste great together, as our fearless leader is wont to say.

  73. #73 Narad
    March 14, 2015

    BTW, Monsanto goes over the usual litany of anti-GMO papers in a recent response to a proposed proxy vote (PDF).

  74. #74 Narad
    March 14, 2015

    Anti-vax (aluminum) and Anti-GMO (glyphosate): two great tastes that taste great together

    The pineal gland is the icing on the cake, because it’s what makes reiki work.

  75. #75 herr doktor bimler
    March 14, 2015

    Aluminum and Glyphosate Can Synergistically Induce Pineal Gland Pathology

    No mention of Schumann Resonances. I am disappoint.

  76. #76 Bronze Dog
    Nowhere, Tx
    March 14, 2015

    No mention of Schumann Resonances. I am disappoint.

    Or raspberries?

  77. #77 ann
    March 14, 2015

    But if I consider the collective amount all the thousands of chemicals that various agencies are assuring me are so safe… but none of them are evaluated for effects on microbiome… why shouldn’t I question it?

    Because…

    I like my microbiome. I am of the understanding that a healthy, robust, diverse microbiome is an important factor in my overall health, and I want to stay healthy.

    …your microbiome has been dealing with glyphosate for however many of the last 40-plus years you’ve been alive, and it’s evidently healthy, robust and diverse, the way you like it.

  78. #78 ChrisP
    March 14, 2015

    Yes, I understand this. But the authors seem to be confused, since they did not conclude that their data demonstrated it was safe. Confirmation bias? Data misinterpretation? Just plain making shit up?

    Possibly all of the above.

    Why should we trust their data if their intentions and/or skill is so questionable?

    We don’t. We check it against other data. Such as http://www.publish.csiro.au/?paper=PP9790177

    This suggests the MIC for bacteria will be in the high mg/L to the low g/L range.

    How about this question: Has Monsanto published any studies demonstrating that glyphosate does not harm gut bacteria? If not, why not?

    I know of no such publication from Monsanto. The reasons why they have not published such a study are likely to be the same reasons why I would not do it.

    1. There is no reason to suspect that the microbiome is more sensitive to glyphosate than other bacteria.

    2. The likely exposure is considerably below concentrations of glyphosate that are known to inhibit bacterial growth.

    3. If there were an inhibitory effect that led to an adverse health outcome, that adverse health outcome would already be captured by the existing feeding studies that go into setting the ADI.

    The only rationale for looking at the microbiome would be if there was an unexplained negative health outcome that you might be able to explain if you knew more about the microbiome. In the absence of such an adverse health outcome there seems little point.

    But in all seriousness… no I am not drinking glyphosate. But if I consider the collective amount all the thousands of chemicals that various agencies are assuring me are so safe… but none of them are evaluated for effects on microbiome… why shouldn’t I question it?

    This to me seems an argument from ignorance packaged with a lot of hand waving. ‘If we don’t know about something, it must be bad!’. Given that overall health outcomes of synthetic chemicals have to be determined and a wide range of end-points are measured as part of the regulatory process, what is the likelihood that an adverse health outcome exists that cannot be otherwise measured?

    Yes these chemicals may be having impacts on the microbiome, and that may lead to adverse health outcomes, but such effects will be at concentrations higher than the NOAEL.

    The way I see it… there’s a whole ecosystem down there in my gut, and I want to preserve it. I might not be able to save the rainforests, but maybe there is something I can do about my own internal ecosystem.

    Do you have any suggestions?

    Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. Have an annual medical check. Give up tobacco. Stop worrying about things that you cannot change.

  79. #79 LW
    March 14, 2015

    Thousands of chemicals, thousands of drugs (including gobs of antibiotics), and yes, even thousands of naturally-occurring substances, that human beings put in their mouths on a daily basis, and hardly anybody is considering the impact on the microbiome?

    So why, out of those thousands of chemicals, focus on glyphosate?

  80. #80 Matt
    March 14, 2015

    @ChrisP

    This to me seems an argument from ignorance packaged with a lot of hand waving. ‘If we don’t know about something, it must be bad!’.

    Kudos to you for expressing how my argument seems to you, rather assuming that you already know what my motivations and intentions are, and then demanding I defend myself against your false characterizations of me. I appreciate it.

    But no… this isn’t an argument of, ‘If we don’t know about something, it must be bad!’ Could just as well be the case that small, regular doses of glyphosate are great for the microbiome.

    No… this was simply a question of: Is there any evidence to show that glyphosate does not cause harm to the microbiome. Which then evolved into- if not, why not?

    Thanks to you, Krebiozen, and to some degree, Ann, I feel that those questions have now been answered to my satisfaction. Cheers.

  81. #81 ChrisP
    March 14, 2015

    Kudos to you for expressing how my argument seems to you, rather assuming that you already know what my motivations and intentions are, and then demanding I defend myself against your false characterizations of me. I appreciate it.

    Your motivations are your motivations and I can’t be expected to second guess them. All I can do is point out what it looks like from an outsider. If you don’t want your motivations to look like this, perhaps you should look at what you are writing.

    No… this was simply a question of: Is there any evidence to show that glyphosate does not cause harm to the microbiome. Which then evolved into- if not, why not?

    This has been pointed out to you time and time again. The concentrations of glyphosate that have negative impacts on bacteria are orders of magnitude higher than the amount that a person might obtain in food. Therefore, the answer to the question is simply that glyphosate residues in food are unlikely to have an impact on the microbiome.

    But you don’t seem to want to accept this.

  82. #82 Matt
    March 14, 2015

    @ChrisP

    If you don’t want your motivations to look like this, perhaps you should look at what you are writing.

    Perhaps readers of my words shouldn’t make assumptions as to my motivations, but instead ask for clarification.

    But you don’t seem to want to accept this.

    Thanks to you, Krebiozen, and to some degree, Ann, I feel that those questions have now been answered to my satisfaction. Cheers.

    TRANSLATION: I accept your explanation. Thanks again.

  83. #83 herr doktor bimler
    March 15, 2015

    Re. Matt’s suggestion @417 of using an intestinal-tract simulator to test the effects of herbicides:

    a Simulator of the Human Intestinal Microbial Ecosystem: the SHIME® and in rats. The SHIME® comprises six reactor vessels (stomach to colon).

    SO I read the linked paper, and whatever the researchers were putting *into* their simulator, they were certainly getting Garbage Out.

    Did the researchers compare the microbial composition of their artificial colon against the composition of the fecal samples they used to inoculate it? That would have established the quality of the simulation, but alas, that little detail slipped their mind. Having run a simulation of 30 days of processing herbicide-laced foodstuffs, checking for variations in microbial composition, did they run a simulation of 30 days of processing pesticide-free foodstuffs, as a control? No, they didn’t bother.

    They seemed to go to a lot of trouble to produce worthless, meaningless results.

  84. #84 Matt
    March 15, 2015

    They seemed to go to a lot of trouble to produce worthless, meaningless results.

    Bummer. It sounded like a neat idea.

  85. #85 tiggerthewing
    March 15, 2015

    The quality of the air, water and food I take in has improved dramatically over the course of my lifetime. Why are so many people today so terrified of harmless stuff? Is it because our brains are wired, like those of our ancient ancestors, to see constant threats everywhere and some people, instead of being grateful that we are safer than at any time in history, look for any reasons to justify their groundless fears?

    I fail to understand why people are so determined to find a link between autism and anything ‘modern’ (even if it’s actually decades old, and safer – by far – than what went before) when it is pretty much settled that the different way our brains are wired happens in utero, possibly influenced by a combination of fœtal genetics and uterine hormone levels but extremely unlikely to be influenced by minute quantities of safe chemicals, whether natural or man-made (from natural ingredients, of course – making matter from light is much harder than the reverse 🙂 ).

    As for the microbiome; since this is likely to vary from individual to individual and day to day, depending on diet, it surely is impossible to say what is a ‘perfect’ combination of gut flora!

    Which combinations of gut flora are ideal? We can’t know, and not just for humans eating a ‘modern’ diet. Even today, traditional, hunter-gatherer societies have very different diets, as shown in this article about ‘Paleo’ diets.

    Regardless of stupid graph extrapolations, people like me with atypical neurology will always be in a minority (as will people like me with genetic health disorders). However hard we try, we simply can’t out-breed the dominant, ‘healthy’ population! 😉

  86. #86 herr doktor bimler
    March 15, 2015

    Bummer. It sounded like a neat idea.
    Thanks for the link anyway. But an in vitro simulation has to be a *really convincing* simulation before its results change the mind (one way or the other) of someone who isn’t already expecting those results.

  87. #87 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    March 15, 2015
  88. #88 Tim
    March 18, 2015

    Lot’s of ignorance in this article and in the comments. Of course, I would expect that from the keepers of the faith. Much of medical science today is junk science – talk about the correlation equals causation dilemma. What in mainstream medicine is not based on ludicrous correlations studies with built in bias?

    There is a reason to believe Roundup alters the gut’s bacterial balance. The permeability of a damaged gut, damaged villi and the destruction of the bacterial/mucosal lining leading to attack by toxins and pathogens. Could that be the cause of autism or other disorders?

    Just because a medical degree’d person didn’t come up with this hypothesis, does that means its wrong? This article is based on junk science and ignorance.

  89. #89 justthestats
    March 18, 2015

    There is a reason to believe Roundup alters the gut’s bacterial balance. The permeability of a damaged gut, damaged villi and the destruction of the bacterial/mucosal lining leading to attack by toxins and pathogens. Could that be the cause of autism or other disorders?

    I’m confused. You claim to have read the comments, and yet you seem to not have noticed that these very concerns have already been discussed in depth.

  90. #90 JGC
    March 18, 2015

    What in mainstream medicine is not based on ludicrous correlations studies with built in bias?

    Pretty much everything that I’m aware of, Tim. Small molecule drugs, biologics, vaccines, medical devices, etc., are only licensed by the EMEA, FDA, etc. after extensive clinical testing has characterized their safety and demonstrate their efficacy.

  91. #91 JGC
    March 18, 2015

    There is a reason to believe Roundup alters the gut’s bacterial balance.

    Not at exposure levels achievable by consuming a diet which includes produce grown using it as an herbicide.

  92. #92 Pertti A. Ukkola
    Finland
    March 20, 2015

    Do you think that this as well is bad science? How come you couldn’t find it?

  93. #94 Dangerous Bacon
    March 20, 2015

    Yep, that’s pertti bad science, seeing as critics had a field day pointing out its numerous gross flaws and the journal it was published in later retracted it.

    It’s since been republished, but remains an outstanding example of crappy anti-GMO pseudoscience.

  94. #95 Chris
    March 20, 2015

    Pertti A. Ukkola: “Do you think that this as well is bad science? How come you couldn’t find it?”

    Perhaps you should have put “Seralini” in the search box above, you have found several articles including this one:
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2012/09/24/bad-science-on-gmos-it-reminds-me-of-the-antivaccine-movement/

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