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GOOD NEWS: `NEW' TOMATOES HAVE THEIR PLACE

They call it genetic engineering. I called it genetic tampering the first time I bit into one of those so-called scientifically improved tomatoes - the kind long on shelf life, short on taste.

Like Adam of biblical fame, my husband deferred to me when it came to taking the first bite."Well, what's the verdict?" he asked while I was still chewing. Actually, ruminating would have been a better word for the act of masticating a vegetable (or is it a fruit?) with a texture somewhere between an inner tube and a rubber ball.

"I say we've got a definite case of counterfeiting here, and whoever's behind it should get life."

"Life in prison?"

"Life in Joe Albertson's supermarket playing tennis with a genetically engineered tomato."

"I take it you're not impressed."

"Depressed would be a better word for the way I'm feeling at the moment. If they can do this to a tomato, what chance do bananas have? Next thing you know, we'll need a chain saw to slice fruit for our Post Toasties.

"And what about pears? If scientists keep on this way, they'll soon be hollowing out genetically improved Bartletts to make children's shoes - narrow heel . . . plenty of room in the toe box . . . available in bushels for families with a lot of kids."

"Come on!" my spouse interrupted. "I'll bet those newfangled veggies (or are they fruits?) aren't all that bad."

"Oh yeah?" I lost all patience. "I think it's time you put your mouth where your money is."

"OK!" he agreed. "Just throw one of those babies over here and I will."

Unfortunately, he missed the toss.

Fortunately, thanks to genetic engineering, that tomato bounced.