Does Organic Food Cause Autism?

Of course not.  But if you applied the same logic used by many anti-GMO activists who claim that the increased use of GMOs caused the rise in autism, one would have to claim that the of organic food also caused autism.  That's according to this post by Kevin Folta.  

His little parody shows how easy it is to create a scary sounding food story based on spurious correlations.  In fact, he shows three graphs illustrating the rise in autism, the rise in diabetes, and the rise in organic food consumption over time.  All three track each other almost perfectly.  But no one reasonable would claim that diabetes causes autism or that organics cause autism.  Likewise, no reasonable person should claim GMOs cause autism unless they can provide some causal biological biases for the claim.  

It is exactly this sort of fallacious correlational analysis that "suggests" adoption of GMOs in India caused an increase in suicides.  This little tidbit spread like wildfire around the web, made its way into food documentaries, and now is often repeated as fact.  The trouble is that when you actually look at the facts, the story doesn't hold much water.  

Here are the first two paragraphs of Folta's parody:

While people think of "organic" cultivation techniques as natural and safe, there are important points we might consider.  Most of the plants used today have only been developed genetically in the last 100 years, and even "heirloom" varieties were bred relatively recently.  There have been no long term studies, and plants certainly are known to produce a wide suite of toxic compounds.  
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. There have been no long-term studies to assess the effects of this un-natural gene expression.