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Life out here by Bret Kofford: Brave new tomato

June 27, 2001

The year: 2010

The place: Imperial

"I don't see what the big deal is in all this protesting about biotech research," I said to my tomato. "They've been protesting every year over in San Diego for 10 years about how biotechnology is altering nature and is the unrestrained pursuit of the freakish, but I don't see how biotechnology has changed the world in the least bit."

"Neither do I," said my tomato through her thick, luscious lips, which is typical of tomatoes these days, since tomatoes have been bred and genetically engineered to be plump and juicy from head to toe. Tomato toes, in fact, are a delicacy — some say an aphrodisiac — in Singapore and Malaysia these days.

"Basically, despite all my thoughts and ruminations," continued my tomato, as tomatoes in these times are wont to do, "I am a tomato ultimately and my role is to be sliced into your salad. All I ask is that you allow me and my friend the carrot here to watch one last ‘Mad About You' rerun before we are buried in blue cheese."

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Scientists have done much to advance vegetables through DNA manipulation, cloning and cross-breeding, but they have been unable to breed out vegetables' inexplicable and maddening affection for "Mad About You."

So as the tomato and the carrot hopped over to the couch to watch "our beloved Paul Reiser," I went into the back yard to get something healthy to drink with my lunch. As I turned the now-natural metal spigots on my Rottweiler/Guernsey mix and its clone, I thought about how wonderfully far science had advanced us, how in these times I could not only have matching animals in the back yard who protect the property and threaten the trash collectors but at the same time deliver ice cold, pasteurized milk right from their antiseptic iron teats.

The best thing about Rottguernseys™ is they can survive by just grazing on the grass in the back yard, and the best thing about grass in the back yard these days is you no longer have to water it. Thanks to scientists, all you have to do is smile at your grass twice a week and it will grow like crazy.

As I was mulling how great our world has become thanks to biotechnology, I saw my neighbor Art trimming his lawn with his hedgehog. Hedgehogs proved much more effective at trimming lawns than Weedeaters after scientists adjusted the DNA to turn hedgehogs' back feet into handles and bred out the capability of the little monsters of turning around and biting you. They still chatter a bit in the tool shed at night, but their tiny vocal chords should be gone by the next generation, all thanks to genetic manipulation.

I started to say "hi" to Art but I realized that one of his heads, the lazy one he uses for constant rest and relaxation, was asleep, even as the one he uses for constant work and home projects was hedgehogging away. When many men and women got terribly busy early in this millennium, when 24 hours in a day simply was not enough for truly ambitious folks, scientists did some genetic alteration to allow for an extra head to grow. That second head would enjoy life while the other head would work hard all the time.

"When there's just not enough time in the day for one head, two heads are better than one," went the catchy ditty to the old commercial for Biotech Add a Head Specialists in Del Mar, an ad that featured two smiling heads on one set of shoulders grinning broadly at each other and singing.

I didn't greet Art that afternoon because I knew if I woke the slacker head he would invite me over for beer and foosball and wouldn't let it go until I relented. That would anger the worker head and then all kind of head butting would ensue, as has been the case so many times with those two neighboring heads. Scientists are still trying to alter the chromosomes to wipe out co-head disputes, although "head fight clubs" are becoming popular in certain Yappie (young altered professionals) circles.

So I walked back into my home and took my steak from the refrigerator. As I opened the package the steak started cooking on the table. Refrigerated beef has been genetically engineered to start cooking the minute it is exposed to air, and you can order anything from rare to well-done Air-Cooked Steaks™.

So as "Mad About You" ended I rounded up and stabbed the vegetables, poured my Rottguernsey™ milk into a glass and took a first bite of my medium rare ACS™.

After a short nap my the Living Siamese Cat with a Mini-Alarm Alarm Clock in Its Spleen by Swatch™ woke me and meowed that it was time to go back to work. Realizing I might be late in my return to the office, I spread the wings on my back and flew in at warp speed.

So what, biotech-phobes, is the problem?

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