Advances in Stem Cell Research!

Amazing! Some researchers in Japan have claimed to have created a functional human liver from stem cells.  The scientists implantes induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, whose function is not yet determined and can develop into any type of cell.  While controversy exists on stem cells taken from embryos, this discovery could bypass the argument as iPS cells can be obtained from adults.  This would revolutionize the future of health care in eliminating or reducing the wait time for organ donations, replacing damaged or sick cells, and more.  Read the New York Daily News article here.

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World Water Week!

March is here! This means that World Water Week (March 19-25) is quickly approaching!

About 800 million people (1 in 8) do not have access to safe drinking water.  The consumption of contaminated water is a health risk and attributes to the death of 4,000 children each day.  With the enactment of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, organizations are working to reduce the number of people without access to safe water and basic sanitation recorded from 1990 by 50% by the year 2015.

World Water Week is a time devoted to seminars, events, and conferences that promote awareness of  the lack of basic access to water and sanitation in global communities.  Last year, I attended a seminar with a panel of Dr. Roberto Lenton from the World Bank, Dr. David Winder from WaterAid, and Dr. Greg Allgood from Procter&Gamble  at the George Washington University campus.  They each discussed their work in communities to combat the world water crisis.  Very invigorating!  Much so in fact that I have signed up to volunteer to recruit restaurants for the Tap Project!

The Tap Project is an annual fundraiser hosted by UNICEF in several cities across the US including DC that brings awareness to the ease by which potable water is accessed here that we do not thoroughly appreciate and certainly take for granted.  During World Water Week, UNICEF partners with restaurants to have them ask their patrons to donate $1 or more for the glass of tap water that are generally served free.  Prior to the event, volunteers provide printed information and work with restaurants to train its waitstaff so that they are comfortable serving as references regarding Tap Project and the issues of water access.

Each year, the donations from all the restaurants are collected at the end of the week to contribute to relieving water accessibility and sanitation issues and implementing sustainable solution in selected countries.  This year, the donations will be helping communities in Togo, Vietnam, Mauritania, and Cameroon.

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Look for this image in the windows of participating restaurants!

An official list and map of participating restaurants will be announced immediately prior to the event.  Visit the Tap Project website for more information on how you can help.

Go celebrate World Water Day on March 22nd!

Modern Farming Techniques

Video

Last month, I subbed for a Spanish teacher while he gave a presentation for an assembly at his school. During one of his breaks, he showed me this “cute” video. Yes, it is a commercial for Chipotle. I was skeptical when he told me this, too, but I gave it a try.

He was right. The short story starts out cute with animated pigs frolicking on a pasture. However, halfway through, another teacher in the staff lounge and I couldn’t help but avert our eyes as the commercial progressed.

Now, I’m no PETA activist or die-hard vegan. However, I do care that the little meat that I do eat comes from a relatively happy animal and doesn’t have antibiotics infused in it.

Marketing implications aside, I have to commend Chipotle for creating such an accurate depiction of modern livestock production that can be used in the classroom as an educational tool.

America is one of the leading countries in meat and dairy consumption. We are also the leaders in cancer, diabetes and obesity rates. Some longitudinal and cross-sectional studies attribute our Western diet as a cause or at least a major contributor for these two correlations.  (For more information, watch the documentary Forks Over Knives).

“Meat is a good source of protein. It makes you strong,” people say.  Current production practices for meat is not only inhumane, but it also requires much energy, contributes to global warming, struggles to meet the demands, and is not sustainable.   Whether you see it as a new fad or a step towards a more vegetation-based diet, soy, almonds, and even coconut entering the new market as an alternative source for milk and protein.  Perhaps we need to look elsewhere for meat products to offset the emphasis placed on quantity rather than quality.

An overlooked abundant source of protein is insects!!!  Now, I know what you’re thinking. Gross.  I honestly cannot fathom putting legs that stick to my tongue or grubs that squirt….bleh…..  However, the West is behind in adopting what is considered a delicacy in other countries.  Plus, the advantages of farming bugs is inarguable: they don’t require much space and supply a high net energy yield (the amount of energy needed to produce it verses the amount of energy it provides nutritiously).

So how can I be disgusted if I haven’t actually tried it?  I have a personal motto that I will try everything at least once, so with more thought on the subject as I write about it, I’m actually excited at the thought of eating chocolate covered ants for a snack if it were available.   Now, this doesn’t mean you will see me on the sidewalk pouring chocolate  from a fondue fountain machine!!

(Watch this TED video for more information on the unrecognized resource of insects)

I went on a few unplanned tangents with this silly pig video… I guess my point through this all is to urge everyone to think about the future, be open-minded to change, and return to simpler values.  Food should be produced with work and love, and taste good! With no high fructose corn syrup!