Would you eat food grown in human poop? | The Tylt
Scientists are looking into all kinds of ways astronauts can use human waste. One team is looking into how astronauts can use their poop to grow food. Another is looking at how they can extract essential nutrients and materials for plastic from urine. Some people have no issues with this—food has been grown in manure for thousands of years. Others are grossed out by the idea of eating something made from human waste. It's just wrong. What do you think? 💩
Would you eat food grown in human poop?
Scientists are figuring out ways to recycle human waste to supply astronauts with food, nutrients, and materials on long space trips. They're looking into using poop to grow food. They're already recycling urine into drinking water—although Russians have yet to sign onto the idea.
Using human waste to grow food is an age-old idea. Farmers the world over have been using waste as fertilizer to grow food. Matt Damon used his poop to grow food when he was stranded on Mars. It's a solid idea. Recycling waste would allow astronauts to essentially resupply themselves and carry minimal resources with them as they embark on long journeys.
“Astronauts will need to be able to produce nutrients and materials they need during Earth-independent long-term space travel,” said Mark Blenner, a synthetic biologist from Clemson University in South Carolina, who is leading the research. “They simply don’t have the space to transport all possible needs – and certain nutrients, drugs, and materials can degrade over the course of three-plus year mission.”Astronaut Chris Hadfield said drinking recycled urine is actually pretty good.
“Before you cringe at the thought of drinking your leftover wash water and your leftover urine, keep in mind that the water that we end up with is purer than most of the water that you drink at home,” he said. “That makes the International Space Station its own self-contained environment. That’s a critical step towards living for long periods off of planet Earth.”
Back on Earth, some people worry that growing food with human waste could have long-term negative environmental impacts. Human waste is usually processed and turned into a "biosolid" to destroy any pathogens that may be lurking in the mix. But environmentalists worry about the presence of pharmaceuticals, heavy metals and other harmful materials present in human waste.
Besides it being gross, growing food in human waste might be bad for the environment and for humans.
Part of the problem, he said, is that most studies look only for immediate damage or death, not slower, less obvious effects like reductions in fertility. "Most of the toxicology is based on acute studies of one compound in short-term exposure," Kinney told Motherboard. "What's happening in natural environments is long term exposure to low concentrations, so you're not going to see those acute effects per se. We're not going to see typical things like lethality."