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GM Food: the issue moves ahead

Humans have been modifying their food for thousands of years. Until the 20th century, this had to be done by breeding desirable characteristics into crops. But appearance of GM (genetic modification) has enabled us to add qualities to crops that no amount of traditional breeding could do.

Genetic Modification (GM) involves moving genetic material from the cells of one organism to those of another. These organisms may be related to one another or unrelated.

It is initially a laboratory process. A common soil bacterium that naturally transfers genes into plant cells is the preferred method for producing new GM crops, although there are other techniques. Isolated cells or tissues from the plant are treated with the bacterium containing the new genes.

The bacteria are then removed and plants grown from the cells or tissues, contain the new genes. In fact mutation (changes to the DNA code) is happening all the time in nature. This is a fundamental process of evolution.

The first field trial of a GM organism went ahead in 1986. Frostban was a spray containing genetically modified bacteria. In the trials, Frostban was sprayed over a strawberry crop to protect them from frost damage. It was designed to stop the growth of other bacteria that catalyse the formation of ice.

In 1994, the first commercially available GM food ,Flavr Savr tomatoes appeared on the market. Traditionally, tomatoes are picked when they are green. Then they are sprayed with ethylene to induce ripening. But Flavr Sayr tomatoes are ripened on the vine. And they are firm for longer with a full flavor. It was a big hit with consumers.

Canadian scientists have created a tomato that grows in water nearly half as salty as the ocean. The sodium ions in salt are toxic to plants because they interfere with their metabolism. But the modified tomato contains a gene that makes it gather ions inside large cell spaces called vacuoles where they can't harm the plant. The salt storing takes place only in the leaves, not in the tomato. This ensures that it will look feel and taste the same as a tomato grown in normal conditions.

Scientists have managed to genetically engineer a variety of rice that could prevent a form of blindness. Over 250 million people worldwide are at risk from permanent blindness caused by Vitamin A deficiency. The GM rice dubbed Golden Rice could stop the condition developing because it contains a daffodil gene that produces beta-carotene. This pigment forms Vitamin A when absorbed by the human body and gives the rice its Yellowish colour, hence the name 'Golden Rice.'

Globally, the four main GM crops being grown commercially are soybean (36.5 million hectares, or more than 62 per cent of the global soybean area), maize (19 per cent), cotton (13 per cent) and oilseed rape (5 per cent). In 2002, GM crops grown worldwide covered twice the land area of Britain (58.7 million hectares), a 12 per cent increase on 2001 and this figure is growing rapidly. By land area, the vast majority (99 per cent) of GM crops are grown in four countries: the US, Argentina, Canada and China, with the US accounting for around two-thirds of the world total.

GM crops are also commercially grown in Australia, Bulgaria, Columbia, Germany, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Romania, South Africa, Spain and Uruguay. Globally, approximately 6 million farmers in these 16 countries (7 developed; 9 developing) grow GM crops, with 75 per cent of these farmers coming from the developing world.

Hundreds of millions of people and animals worldwide eat food and feed from GM crops and there have been no ill effects, supporting fully the responsible approach taken by industry and regulators.

In future, GM crops will help to treat and prevent disease such as eliminating allergens from foods like peanut or wheat. This also includes vaccines and medicines that can be produced more cheaply and more effectively in plants than in laboratories. Meanwhile, South African scientists have used genetic modification to insert the vaccine for the disease cholera into bananas. Cholera is a particularly serious problem in South Africa. But there are still several barriers that stop developing countries from growing GM crops on a large scale. Even future GM crops that can be grown under environmental stresses (heat, cold, and drought), will help countries (including developing countries) to improve their food security in a way that is affordable and less damaging to the environment.

Views also go against GM foods. Some inserted genes coming from plants and animals might lead to unexpected health problems. Also, the insertion of the gene might disrupt normal function in ways we can't see or predict. In both cases, the new foods might produce substances that, for example, trigger allergic reactions.

Genes can cross from the food we eat to the bacteria in our stomachs, and these might include antibiotic-resistant genes that have been routinely used as marker genes in GM technology. This could render antibiotics ineffective against human and animal diseases. GM is being pushed forward far too fast, without adequate monitoring. The current testing and monitoring are inadequate to pick up long-term problems. Because we don't know enough about how genes work .We need new, more rigorous testing methods. Environmentalists are worried that GM crops could pollinate wild plant species, introducing foreign GM genes into non-GM species.

Food scientists argue that if genetic engineering changes food composition, it might lower the amounts of certain nutrients in food, such as fatty acids. This might cause nutritional deficiencies in vulnerable groups such as infants, pregnant women, the elderly and people with chronic disease.

By Nabila Quamrun Nahar

True stories

So what if you don't belong to some hotshot Hollywood family? You might actually have a great great granddaddy who was a real star. Scientists now believe that we are all incredibly ancient. They think that the atoms that make up our bodies were formed inside stars, which formed, lived and died nearly 5000 million years ago even before our sun. Stars almost ten times the age of our sun ended their lives in a violent explosion called a supernova. In the eruption all the chemical elements spread into space mixing with other materials which eventually formed other stars and planets perhaps even the Earth. With theories like that coming up, who needs a Michael Douglas in the family.
(Source: The Giant Book of Facts)

Elton's not a Madonna fan
Last week Elton John lashed out at the most successful female artist of all times, Madonna, for lip singing on stage during most of her shows. He used extremely foul language when talking about the singer and told interviewers that he didn't think it worth the seventy pounds you'd have to spend to watch a live Madonna performance when its all far from 'live'. Elton added that he didn't care if he was dropped off Madonna's Christmas for he wasn't afraid of speaking the truth.
In reply, Madonna's spokesperson assured the media that the singer had always given live performances on stage and thought she deserved the hefty amount she got for her recent Reinvention tour. Elton's not off Madonna's Christmas mailing list informed the spokesperson, and she doesn't trash other artists behind their backs.
(Source: Yahoo)

Meet the Brat
Meet Lindsay Lohan, movie world's newest hot property. She might be making 7.5 million per movie but this mean girl's wild shenanigans are only getting her labeled as "a snob". At her favorite Los Angeles restaurant, eighteen-year-old Lindsay created a scene by demanding alcohol, which she was denied for being underage. Everyone was staring at her when an angry Lindsay snapped at a few guys sitting near by, 'Haven't you seen a celebrity before?' The shocked but polite guests paid for her meal and left her a note advising her to use the money they had saved her to get some "charms lessons". The following week she returned to the same place with a stack of her own photos and stood by the door offering to sign them for whoever wanted them. "People come here to eat," commented an angry waiter "not to be part of some Lindsay Lohan fan club."

When the young actress was approached by three twelve-year-olds at a fashion store she shrugged them off and had the manager close down the store so she could have it for herself because she needed some 'privacy'. Lindsay might have won many hearts as the energetic Halle or the reserved Anne she played in The Parent Trap or this year's Mean Girls but it seems like she's out to break just as many. But its not only Lindsay Lohan but many successful Hollywood actresses who need a crash course in something called "manners."
(Source: msn.com)

Compiled by the Hitch-hiker

Book Review

The Black House

Nearly two decades a relatively fresh new author by the name of Stephen King had teamed up with another marginally better established one called Peter Straub to write a novel entitled "The Talisman."

As fate determined, the massive collaborative work that was "The Talisman" ended up being a number one bestseller and spiraled into overdrive the already growing reputations of the men concerned in producing the book. Both men went their different ways after that and both have established themselves at the pinnacle of their art. Peter Straub, as a horror hound and Stephen King as Danse Macabre.

Now, King and Straub have teamed up once again to write a sequel to The Talisman. What their collaboration has produced is the quite enchanting tale entitled "The Black House."

The simple country town of Tamarack, Wisconsin has taken a turn for the worse as a cannibalistic child killer, dubbed "The Fisherman" by local reporter Wendell Green, wreaks havoc upon the innocent townsfolk. The killer is too cunning for the local police to crack and even the FBI makes little headway. However there is one man who can help solve this case. That man is Jack Sawyer. Now 31, and retired he lives in Tamarack, a place he fondly dubs his heaven on earth. Little does he know, that all hell is about to break lose.

The Fisherman has already claimed three victims and the fourth that he has captured is a special child. A child so special that he needs to be saved if the delicate balance between worlds is to be maintained. That child, Tyler Marshall, son of Judy Marshall, is immensely vital and only Jack has any inkling as to his importance.

This book is a real page-turner. Full of action and characters like the blind but streetwise radio DJ Henry Leyden and the less than loveable reporter Wendell Green who is determined to get his big story on this serial killer he has dubbed "The Fisherman" no matter what the cost.

The characters come to life with vivid detail and create a wonderful mystery that takes you on journey from reality into the realms of the Territories. Jack struggles with his past as well as the future in trying to find Judy Marshal's missing son. The whole town becomes part of the story from the local police to the questionable but honorable motorcycle gang.

With deep personalities that you won't have trouble getting to know but may be reluctant to say goodbye to, as well as enough evil to make you want to run away screaming from the pages before you this is definitely one to keep you up at night.

By Quazi Zulquarnain Islam

Puppy and David

One day David went to the park and saw a puppy with a broken foot. David started feeling sad so he took the puppy to the pet's doctor. On the way, he met his uncle who hated animals. David then hid under the big mango tree, so that his uncle would not see the puppy. After a while his uncle crossed the big mango tree and then David got out from behind the tree and ran to the doctor.

He went to the doctor's place and made an appointment. And then he sat down, half an hour later ,the doctor called him, and told him that the puppy is going to be all right. After a few weeks the puppy was all right and David took it home. And David loved the puppy so much that the puppy soon became tame and his best companion.

By Daneesha Khan





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