Fbae Logo
Home | | Support Us | Contact Us
Goals & Objectives Our Position False Propaganda Important Publications Important Links Events News Biosafety
Fbae Header Home




Tobacco Turns a New Leaf

Tobacco is a cash crop and an important revenue earner for the Governments of almost all countries.   Nevertheless, tobacco cultivation and industry have suffered a serious set back, in recent times, on account of the implication of tobacco smoking  in a variety of human disorders, particularly the cardiovascular disease and cancer.   There is a global all out war,  which is threatening the whole future of tobacco-- its cultivation and industry.   But two happenings last month indicate a tide change, in favour of tobacco. 
The US Patents Office issued on February 5, 2002, a patent for a transgenic tobacco plant that contains a gene construct for the synthesis of functional human haemoglobin.   This patent,  held jointly by two French organisations, Meristem Therapeutics and Institute National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale, covers all plants which express human haemoglobin protein.
At last, one of the promises of biotechnology, to produce transgenic organisms that help in alleviating the suffering of millions, on account of deficiency disorders,  has been realised, though it is quite the beginning.     Likely to be dubbed as ‘bloody tobacco’, this biotech product contains 0.05% by weight of human haemoglobin protein in the seeds.   In times to come, any one or more of beans, peas, cabbage, radish, rapeseed, tomatoes, potato, melons, beetroot, carrots, celery, wheat, maize, barley, rice, sunflower, soybean, etc., that would synthesise human haemoglobin particularly in their edible parts.   Hopefully, this will save numerous individuals who need to raise the levels of haemoglobin in their body system, in order to survive.
The second one is a report in a recent issue of Nature Biotechnology, on a transgenic tobacco with genes from the bacterium Enterobacter cloacae, for the synthesis of nitroreductase.   This novel tobacco can cleanse soils of TNT.   The world over, large tracts of soil have become unusable due to a heavy use of dynamite or land mines.
If the current efforts of scientists to develop an anti-cancer drug from tobacco succeed, the plant will gain some of its lost commercial glory.
C Kameswara Rao
Executive Secretary
Foundation for Biotechnology
Awareness and Education