Tinkering With Nature

The Bush administration is doing everything it can to force the European Union to lift its ban on genetically modified crops (also called Franken Foods by some consumers). 

If youíve been hearing about this highly controversial issue on the news youíve probably heard different terms referring to these biotech foods such as transgenic, genetically altered, genetically modified, genetically engineered which basically have similar meanings. Or you may have also seen food products with labels claiming they contain no GMO (genetically modified organism).

Genetic engineering is a field within biotechnology, which involves intentional direct modification or transfer of genetic material or genes made up of DNA, found in living things, to another organism to produce a specific desirable trait. 

For hundreds of years, farmers have been genetically altering crops from their original wild state. They have been changing the genetic make up of plant crops by selectively breeding them hoping to come up with offspring that display the desired traits.

Within the last three decades, scientists have found genetic engineering methods of speeding up the genetic modification process through biotechnology. This refers to a genetic manipulation involving artificial gene transfer or modification. In agriculture, the results are new strains of plant crops that resist diseases, destruction by herbicides and insect pests. 

The genetically engineered organism or the recipient of the transferred gene is called transgenic. This is a crop plant that carries a new gene in all of its cells, which was artificially inserted instead of the plant acquiring it through natural pollination. The transgene may have come from an unrelated plant or even from a completely different species. The genetically modified Bt corn, for example, contains a gene from a bacterium, which enables it to produce its own insecticide (Bacillus thuringiensis) delta endotoxin.

Another product of biotech is strains of genetically engineered microorganism designed to produce increased amounts of substances, which would normally occur in small amounts or not all in nature such as bovine somatotropin (BST). The Bovine growth hormone (BGH or BST) is produced by genetically engineered bacteria. Itís used as a drug by livestock growers to treat meat animals to develop more meat and dairy animals to produce more milk and at the same time make them eat less. This synthetic growth hormone is supposed to be identical to the growth hormone produced naturally in the pituitary gland of the animalís brain.

Itís believed that 70% of the foods in mainstream grocery stores have at least some traces of transgenic or GM foods. There is no law that requires companies to identify genetically altered food on the label. 

It's perfectly reasonable to have concerns about this direct genetic modification of food and the new protein these new transgenic organism produce and the effects these may have on people. 

It's also sane to worry about the transmission of genetically modified DNA to other plants, producing "super weeds" that can harm the environment. 

Many consumers fear possible and unpredictable health risks GMO will have on humans. 

Personally, Iím sticking to organic foods.

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Words of Wisdom

ďMake the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.Ē
Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Food for Thought

Are you eating all your daily servings of fruit and vegetables? It is recommended that you consume at least five servings of vegetables and four of fruit each day. One cup of salad, a medium fruit such as an apple, orange or banana make one serving each. Fruit and vegetables are essential to our diets because they provide fiber, vitamins and nutrients necessary for our overall health and reducing risk and even preventing certain chronic illnesses including heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes.

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The Research Department

Beta Carotene is a substance usually found in fruits and vegetables. Once ingested, the body converts to vitamin A. There have been warnings that beta-carotene supplements have been linked to increase risk of lung cancer on smokers and people exposed to asbestos. 

A new study is suggesting that beta-carotene supplements can double the risk of developing benign tumors or adenomas, which can lead to colorectal cancer on people who smoke and have more than one drink a day. The author of the study, Dr. John Baron of the Dartmouth Medical School contends that the supplements are beneficial in decreasing risk of adenomas for people who do not drink or smoke.

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The Joy of Unplugging

We live each day only once. The sum of those days is our life. Make time to enjoy the simple things in life. How about making time to go hiking, or read that book you think you donít have time to read? When was the last time you got up early to enjoy the sunrise? Have you ever taken a day off from all your electronic equipment? If the simple thought of not using your phone, your computer and not reading your email for 24 hours makes you feel anxious, then you should lock up all your electronics at least one day each week. My family and I do it on Sundays.
It leaves us with nothing to do but spend time together reading, hiking and enjoying each other's company.  

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Vegetarian Organic Recipe of the Week

Chickpeas & Tofu Casserole (vegan)
Serves 4 to 6

If you like Indian food, youíll enjoy this delightful and highly nutritious dish, which I developed, inspired by one of my favorite kinds of food. Itís low fat, cholesterol free and has complete protein. 

Preparation time: 10 minutes Cooking time; 30 minutes 

Equipment; Food processor or blender

Get ingredients ready:
2 tablespoons safflower oil
3 fresh garlic cloves 
Ĺ small onion 
1Ĺ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon curry powder
Ĺ teaspoon dried thyme
ľ teaspoon paprika
ľ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
10 medium skinned tomatoes or 1 (28 oz) can of whole peeled tomatoes
3 cups of cooked chickpeas drained or canned garbanzo beans (rinsed & drained)
20 oz of fresh firm tofu cut in small cubes (about 3 cups)
3 tablespoons of fresh finely chopped cilantro
sea salt & freshly ground pepper

1. In a large saucepan, heat oil on medium heat. In a food processor or blender, combine garlic and onion and chop finely. Put the chopped onion and garlic in the saucepan, stir and sautť until soft and translucent. Add tofu and chickpeas. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes stirring frequently.

2. Meanwhile, combine cumin, curry powder, thyme, paprika, cayenne pepper and tomatoes in the food processor or blender and puree them. 

3. Add the tomato puree to the tofu and chickpeas and simmer for 20 more minutes, stirring frequently. Let come to a soft boil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle each serving with chopped cilantro if desired and serve. 

My personal favorite brands I use in this recipe, which many health food stores carry:

Spectrum Naturals organic unrefined safflower oil
Muir Glen whole peeled canned tomatoes
Wildwood firm tofu (refrigerated section)

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Comments? Please send e-mail to Amira at [email protected]