My boyfriend wonders if he can grow meth by sprinkling it around a plant, then smoking the leaves when the plant grows. He doesn’t like meth dealers and wants to avoid them.
— Anonymous girlfriend, via email
Most of us want to avoid meth users, so here’s a refreshing switch. But even more exciting is the fact that your question fits squarely into my favorite DYMTSUM category. These questions get random reader responses, all of which ask: Do You Make This This Stuff Up, Matthew? The implication is, of course, that no rational human being would wonder about that particular subject. Growing meth? What idiot would think of that? Or maybe it’s just a way of covering for their real response, which is WDITOT: Why Didn’t I Think Of That? Whatever the case, I welcome DYMTSUM questions with open mailbox.
The Alice expert in the chem lab also got a few snorts and chuckles at this one, for his own weird scientific reasons, I assume. Yes, meth would dissolve nicely in your watering can and sink down into the soil. After that, it’s up to the plant you’re tending. Plant roots are set up to selectively absorb the specific nutrients they require — hydrogen, nitrogen, phosphorous, etc. When they bump into a C10H15N molecule, they’re probably baffled. This meth molecule doesn’t match anything the plant needs, so it’s not likely to take it up in that form. If you don’t have a clump of C10H15N in the plant, you don’t have meth. So I guess even plants are smart enough to avoid the miserable stuff. I assume in his zeal to avoid tweaker-dealers, your boyfriend’s tried a few “shake-and-bake” recipes for making meth and was lucky enough to survive them without losing an arm or a face. The recipes look like a cross between shopping lists for a camping trip and a major plumbing repair. I guess if you’ve been awake for five days, it seems like a good idea.
Two years ago I saved some seeds out of some great-tasting tomatoes I bought at the grocery store. Last summer I planted those seeds and produced five vines of perfectly shaped, perfect color, great tasting tomatoes that produced all the way into December. I saved enough seeds from last summer’s crop to plant about 20–30 vines this summer. Can I sell these tomatoes under my own brand at a farmers’ market? Or do growers genetically imprint their crops to keep other “farmers” like me from stealing their already developed product?
— Curious Ken, Cardiff by the Sea
Good news, Farmer Curious. There have been no gene-modified tomatoes on our market shelves since the mid-1990s. So your little beauties are available to share with a hungry public. And if your plants are growing true from seed, your t’maters might not even be hybrids, which seems near impossible, since this fruit is one of the most cross-bred in history. They’ve been tinkered with for at least 80 years to improve ripening time, taste, skin color, shipability, shelf life, etc. So, Curious, you’ve stumbled upon a unique breed.
But you were definitely right to ask the question. A corporate vegetable, whose very seed germ has been modified, is a patentable thing, and certain rights do accrue to the developer. Monsanto, f’rinstance, heavily involved in the food-gene biz. They were kind enough to direct us through the labyrinth of contemporary farming and offered corn as a typical patent-protected crop. Most corn we buy, they say, has been gene-modified. So Monsanto might own the rights to your backyard crop. And if they do, they sold you the original seeds with the understanding that you would plant only the seeds that came in the pack you bought. Saving kernels from that crop and planting them the next year is verboten. Commercial farmers understand these restrictions well and are compliant. Monsanto does say that a hobbyist gardener who ignores the restriction won’t be ambushed by the FDA or DeptOfAg in cammies, leaping out of the undergrowth by his little roadside stand. But if you’re wholesaling to markets, that’s a different story.
Since California has no mandatory “gene-tweaked” label for food products, it’s pretty much impossible to know what you’re buying, unless you buy organic. (Most of the experimentation has been with vegetables; salmon is the only gene-modified meat product on the market.) We might have a chance to change that in November, when organic growers and other consumer groups hope to have a must-label referendum on the ballot. In the meantime, I look forward to shopping at Kuriyus Ken’s Kropz, your own personal attack of the killer tomatoes.