Recently in discussion about GMO (genetically modified foods), a friend wondered what were the real objections  to eating things that have been altered by science. After all, practically everything we eat has had some scientific "improvement," pasteurization, refrigerations, etc. But if I had to choose between two packages of cranberries, one marked GMO and one marked the bogs of Massachusetts, I'd go for the purity of bog-produced. 

What is my issue? Well...if the GMO brand is Monsanto, it raises the red flag of corporate greed. And then, if the GMO is more expensive, why pay more? And then, who knows what's in those genes? The list is endless.

The subject arises from a photo of Bill Gates drinking a glass of water produced from sewage, including from toilets. Bill declares the water great. Would I drink it? Hmmm. Fortunately living in NYC, with multiple resevoirs of "fresh" water, I might never have to choose. But others will.

The subject is taken up in a blog post at the New Yorker, "Problems too Disgusting to Solve." It analyzes the various degrees of repugnance we could have to drinking Bill Gates's water, insects, chocolate candy shaped like poop, and other disgusting and "unnatural" stuff. The article could be a test of your own degree of repugnance to potential food/drink items. Would you eat something with a dead, sterilized cockroach in it for your protein? For lent? It's a fun article.

The author, a psychologist, attributes this repugnance to the sense of disgust we develop around the age of four (when most of us learn there are many things we should not put in our mouths). One drawback: the author believes in rational and scientific proof for things and fails to consider the errors and unintended consequences of scientific advances. Who could doubt that Bill Gates's water will produce an epidemic of horrible diseases because of the sub-microl pathogens that get throught the "Omniprocesser" that took toilet water and produced a glass of water in five minutes? Disgusting!!


Margaret O’Brien Steinfels is a former editor of Commonweal. 

Also by this author

Please email comments to [email protected] and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

© 2024 Commonweal Magazine. All rights reserved. Design by Point Five. Site by Deck Fifty.