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biotechnology and communion

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Link to our archive-only thread on 'Church says girl's communion not valid... because the wafer contained no wheat' (Aug - Sep 2004).

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the bread of death.

Having now learned a wee bit about the science behind GMOs and the use of such things as recombinant dna and polymerase chain reaction techniques in agriculture, which are now being supplemented by what we might see as even more "aggressive" biotechnologies focusing on such things as peptide manipulation, I've been thinking about Communion.

Why? Because of this question - is there a point at which genetically modified wheat is no longer wheat? In both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions canon law allows only wheat to be used for Communion. . . .

I think the argument presented above concerning GMO wheat and RCC canon law is correct. If a protein cannot be taken away, then it would seem a protein cannot be added. I like the logic here. Wheat is wheat, and when protein manipulation occurs, you have something other than wheat. While there are very few places left on earth where Orthodox parishes eat bread that is made from wheat grown by the local community, at the very least we can share with the Apostles a Communion bread which was not genetically manipulated in a laboratory.

But, of course, this raises a host of other questions. Once GMO wheat takes over the market, going to the store and getting a non-GMO, unbleached white baking wheat flour is going to cost a lot more than it does today. I suppose even the poorest Orthodox parishes could still afford it, but nonetheless there is something disheartening in having to go to an upscale store or the upscale aisle at your local grocery in order to purchase something which is natural and relatively unmolested. As we see in so many arenas in the late modern American life, what was once a good quotidian human act or experience shared by the many is now only kept for the rich. One pays top dollar today to eat the sorts of foods once eaten by peasants - a simple stew with a couple ounces of pasture fed beef and organic vegetables and grains which have been processed in a traditional manner might cost you $60 at the right place. Purchasing the requisite items at Whole Foods might still cost you $20. Thus unless you are a person of means, you either grow/raise the food yourself or you eat laboratory foods. . . .

The Ochlophobist, July 13

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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