AutismOne speaker Zen Honeycutt’s Latest Nonsense

Zen Honeycutt (Bachelor of Fine Arts) is the founder of the organization Moms Across America (MAA) whose raison d’être is to remove GMOs and glyphosate from the food supply to cure everything from neurodevelopmental issues (like autism and ADHD) to infertility to infection diseases (like pneumonia). This on its own is a big red flag – the idea that there is one cause for ALL THE THINGS should raise your skeptical eyebrows.  In fact, she goes so far as to blame cancer, mental illness, school shootings, infertility and the overall “demise of our families and society” on a common cause induced by ingestion of glyphosate and a “leaky gut”.

She is speaking again this year to promote a GMO-free diet as a cure for autism. Basically, she believes that glyphosate residues on GMOs (but not glyphosate residues on non-GMOs, apparently) are the cause of autism. Read elsewhere on this site where we discuss the scientific evidence regarding this.

Last week, MAA billboards started appearing around the US encouraging parents to buy organic food:

Our families get better when the eat organic.

First, is this claim valid? Not according to the scientific evidence. Organic food is nutritionally equivalent to non-organic; a bigger health concern is that for a variety of reasons including fear of pesticide residues, people in the US are not eating nearly enough fruits and vegetables!  Pesticide residues on the very large majority of produce in the US (organic or non-organic) are far below levels of concern. This article, Moms Across America Sponsors Bogus Organic Billboard Lobbying Blitz, on Forbes breaks down some of the specifics.

If you want to buy organic, go right ahead, just make sure you have accurate info and aren’t basing your decisions on lies and fear-mongering nonsense. Also don’t buy organic food thinking that it will do anything to help your autistic child (beyond the benefits of just increasing intake of fruits and vegetables and reducing intake of added sugars that we have discussed on this site, here).


Second, let’s look at Zen Honeycutt’s track record to assess her credibility on scientific claims. History shows that she is full of ideas not based in science or reality.  As you can see in #8 in the image, she thinks that since high levels of glyphosate are toxic to shrimp who live in salt water, we should ban glyphosate because 1) human wombs are full of salt water (amniotic fluid contains electrolytes, proteins, sugars, lipid and phospholipids and is not like seawater) and 2) fetuses look like shrimp (comparative embryology is a field of study, but it doesn’t mean what she thinks it means). In other words, because human fetuses are like womb shrimp, glyphosate is responsible for all modern medical problems. That is not how anything works. It’s so wrong, it’s “not even wrong” as people say.

She also thinks the drop in teen pregnancy is due to sterilization by glyphosate, which is utter nonsense on many levels (see #9 in the image for the claim and info in the above linked Forbes article debunking this claim).

She has also promoted CD/MMS (bleach enemas for autism) more than once on the MAA Facebook page.

As a side note, please notice that comment in the image was intended for mothers in Africa. In Africa where hunger, poverty and malnutrition are enormous problems. Of course, GMOs won’t “feed the world”, that’s a non-sequitur to begin with, but there is no valid reason to exclude “GMO” technologies from the toolbox that plant breeders can use to address issues of hunger and food security. You can read about the cultural myopia of Zen Honeycutt and other American food activists here.

But what exactly are anti-GMO activists and elite foodies trying to accomplish with their campaign against biotech in Africa? Their rhetoric and attitudes have consequences beyond what happens in the cereal aisle at California grocery stores. These humanitarian applications have nothing to do with Monsanto or pesticides, a fact American food activists are well aware. Yet they are so determined to demonize a technology, they won’t even separate the issues for the sake of human lives.

Maybe it is impossible for them to fathom a place where Whole Foods and hipster co-ops don’t exist or where children die daily from malnutrition. Maybe they can only imagine farmer’s markets as quaint places with natural pet treats and specialty jams rather than places where narrow margins can mean the difference between eating and not eating. And where one batch of bad bananas may mean your children will go hungry.

Perhaps American food activists, especially mothers like Zen Honeycutt, will someday move beyond their cultural myopia and realize the human cost of their words and influence. Because the people of Africa – all people – deserve more than misery and empty stomachs. And, they certainly deserve better than flippant advice and imaginary pots of squash.

As a caveat, it bears mentioning that just because someone is wrong about one thing, it does not necessarily mean that all their claims are wrong. This is a poisoning the well fallacy (also know as a genetic fallacy). This fallacy means that information is judged solely on its source. This doesn’t mean there isn’t validity in considering someone’s credibility. It does means that someone’s credibility may be a red flag to make you think twice about their claims. After all, credibility comes from demonstrating that you back up claims with evidence, apply critical thinking and do all the things that ensure that you are providing reliable information.

Just because Zen has been wrong about all these things doesn’t mean her next claim won’t be correct. But it does mean that I will consider anything she says with a very high degree of skepticism and always seek out sources with a higher degree of credibility. At some point, it just becomes a waste of time to even consider sources with extremely low credibility.

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Alison Bernstein

Alison is a neuroscientist and mom living in Atlanta. Follow her on her Facebook page, Mommy PhD.