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Nutritive value of odors unlocked

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15 March 2007

edit Nutritive Value of Odors Unlocked

SCIENTIST HOPES DISCOVERY WILL END WORLD HUNGER St. Louis, MO - Pursuant to research into the sense of smell, Monsanto scientist Mouradi Petaoumani has stumbled upon a method of deriving nutrition from odors perceived by the olfactory system of mammals. The remarkable discovery is set to revolutionize the manner in which people derive their sustenance. It is now possible, with the aid of a genetic modification to the olfactory receptors located in the nose, to extract nutritive value from the volatile esters emanating from food substances. Esters are the organic molecules that give each odor its distinctive signature; for example, the ester that gives a banana its smell is called isoamyl acetate (CH3COOC5H11). The smell of an orange comes from octyl acetate (CH3COOC8H17).

The nose contains specialized sensory nerve cells, or neurons, with hairlike fibers called clilia on one end. Each neuron sends a nerve fiber called an axon to the olfactory bulb, a brain structure just above the nose. An odor molecule binds to these cilia to trigger the neuron and cause perception of a smell. In the olfactory bulb, fibers from neurons with the same receptor converge on just one or a few glomeruli - specialized structures in which olfactory neurons connect with other types of neurons. Using a proprietary genetic modification technique, Petaoumani has created a link from selected glomeruli directly to the villi (nutrient absorbing structures) located in the small intestine, thus permitting a conversion of odor esters into the small amino acids, simple sugars (monosaccharides), and fatty acids that can be absorbed by the capillaries & lacteals located within the villi.

Although a great deal more research needs to be done to perfect the technique and achieve market-scale results, preliminary data suggests that the genetic modification can be triggered through pharmacological intervention: a pre-determined dose of a bio-engineered neourostimulant. Pharmaceutical industry spokespeople are ecstatic. “This is the greatest discovery since sliced bread and Viagra”, heralded American Pharmaceutical Association (APhA) President Bruce R. Canaday. “Busy working mothers can just keep a crock-pot going – no need to waste time preparing sit-down meals. Employers can disseminate nutritional vapors through the building ventilation. Think of the increased productivity from the elimination of the lunch break.”

Petaoumani says that his discovery may lead to the eventual alleviation of world hunger. Although the caloric and nutritive values of odors vary greatly from one substance to another, he estimates that the aroma from a 6 ounce piece of boiling pork can sustain a family of five for 24 hours, provided no one engages in strenuous physical activity. On the other hand, the smell of toasting white bread may provide nourishment for only 10 minutes. The scientist acknowledges that there are yet many wrinkles to be ironed out prior to successful commercialization. Some of the points being discussed are: - potential toxic or side effects related to absorption of molecules from non-food and unsavory substances (eg.: sewage, smokestack emissions, excrement, skunk, etc.) - impact on obesity rates due to “oversniffing”; other physiological effects (olfactory information travels not only to the limbic system -- primitive brain structures that govern emotions, behavior, and memory storage -- but also to the brain's cortex, or outer layer, where conscious thought occurs. - commercial issues related to nutrient distribution (eg.: nutrition “theft” by individuals loitering around food processing plants, bakeries, distilleries) - humanitarian issues; licensing of relief organizations to provide for “mass feeding” facilities where a large pot can always be “on the boil” at a central public location to provide sustenance to the underprivileged. - economic impact on the food supply chain; as less food will need to be physically ingested. - application of artificial esters to further reduce costs. These can be distributed in spray cans due to extremely long shelf life. - respecting religious and dietary concerns, such as Kosher law and avoiding accidental infringement (eg.: pork vapors with respect to the Jewish community); rights of vegetarians.

Some are skeptical of the potential for large scale human application. The American Dental Association is concerned about revenue loss due to reduced chewing. A spokesperson for the FDA expressed concern that long-term food sniffing may lead to the atrophy of people’s digestive systems. “I think this program may be useful in livestock applications. If the animals receive their food in this manner, we will immediately see large reductions in the volume of excrement produced and disposal issues, particularly on commercial hog farms. We can also remove all risk of mad cow disease, since a few constantly simmering cows can feed a large herd of cattle indefinitely without the risk of transmission. I’m told that prions are unable to cross the vapor barrier.”

Others, like hunger striker Akbar Ganji, worry that governments can use this technique to control legitimate protest. “What is to prevent the police from spraying food smells at a hunger striker? We would have to stop breathing in order to continue.” An impromptu poll of the man in the street elicited mainly pragmatic replies. “No shit”, said one man, “and I guess it’s better than Soylent Green.”

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