Little hellions screaming, "Eat my shorts!" may no longer be speaking metaphorically if researchers are successful
Lieutenant Milo Minderbinder, one of the main characters of Joseph Heller's acclaimed 1961 novel Catch-22, is ostensibly the mess officer for the Mediterranean island air base where the World War II-era story takes place.
But the always optimistic Milo, a parody of the "what's good for business is good for the country" type of thinking very prevalent in the late-1950s--the novel is as much a satire of American business in the post-war era as it is a black comedy about combat--has established "The Syndicate" and M&M Enterprises. These outfits buy and trade various products throughout the region, with shares for everyone involved convincing his commanding officers to allow Milo to use the Army Air Corps' bombers as cargo carriers.
Because he's always making a profit through some inexplicable form of economic logic that resembles a more complicated Ponzi scheme, consequently making everyone rich, Milo is made mayor to caliph in a range of cities and countries in the region, becoming as great a force in the war as either the Allies or Axis powers.
Milo finally stumbles when he tries to corner the Egyptian cotton market and is stuck with a surplus no one wants. Until he comes up with the scheme to sell the cotton to the Germans in exchange for bombing his own air base, Milo tries to convince everyone to eat the cotton, now coated in chocolate. Despite being reminded that they are shareholders in M&M, the airmen refuse to consume the cotton.
Yossarian, Catch-22's everyman anti-hero, is the only person whose opinion Milo will trust since Yossarian's the only person on the base not swayed by greed and Milo's offers of financial remuneration through the M&M share program.
The chocolate-coated cotton tastes awful, the honest Yossarian tells Milo, further depressing the young entrepreneur.
What neither Yossarian or Milo Minderbinder knew, we can suppose, is that cotton tastes bad because of gossypol, a chemical the plant produces to protect it from pests and bugs. But once you remove the gossypol, it has a great nutritional value.
According to Time magazine, cottonseed is 23% protein and "the current cotton crop produces enough seeds to meet the daily requirements of half a billion people a year."
Using RNA interference (RNAi) technology--yes, genetic modification--which will probably open up another can of worms later on, but let's cross that bridge when we get there, although there really should not be arguments like this when you're trying to solve starvation, but what can you do? --Texas A&M researcher Keerti Rathore, says New Scientist magazine, has removed "gossypol from cotton seed without affecting the toxin load in the rest of the plant, meaning the plant will contain edible seed but not be destroyed by crop pests."
Another researcher told the magazine the development would "allow cottonseed to be used more widely as an animal feed...and extend its uses as a substitute for other high-value oils, like canola (rapeseed) oil."
"It's not bad," Rathore told Time. "Tastes like chickpeas."
And you don't even have to coat it with chocolate!