ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

19 February 2002


A long time observer of the PR tactics of Big Tobacco sent us the following comment on the current hype about 'Low-nicotine smokes, thanks to genetic engineering':
"The main experiments conducted by the tobacco industry with the aim of modifying tobacco was to INCREASE the nicotine level (called Y1 in the document archives).
"Their problem and advantage have always been the same -- the balance between addictive nicotine and carcinogenic tars.  If you lower the nicotine uptake, then people smoke more, get more tars and then more cancer.
"If you raise the nicotine level, you get accused of spiking the cigarettes to hook the young smokers.
"They have a no-win either way ... which is how it should be."

Original bulletin:

1. Farmers fear that genetically altered tobacco will contaminate their crops
2. Low-nicotine smokes, thanks to genetic engineering
3. Tobacco comes good
4.  Italian environmentalists ready to battle "biotech wines"
1. An Engineered Controversy  -
Farmers fear that genetically altered tobacco will contaminate their crops
Mother Jones - Magazine
2. Coming: Low-nicotine smokes, thanks to genetic engineering

Atlanta Journal Washington
Philip Brasher - Associated Press
Sunday, February 17, 2002

Washington --- From cereal to corn chips, Americans consume a variety of products from genetically engineered crops. They soon can add cigarettes to the list --- new smokes due this spring use tobacco genetically altered to be very low in nicotine.

A new Agriculture Department study confirmed the low levels of nicotine, the addictive component, in the biotech tobacco and found the crop poses little environmental risk.

Tobacco grown last summer on department-supervised test plots is going into the cigarettes, made by Vector Group, parent company of Vector Tobacco.

The company has asked the Agriculture Department to remove restrictions on where and how the tobacco can be grown, and the agency probably will go along.

Vector has not said where it will sell the biotech cigarettes or what they will be called.

People who have tried them say they light, smoke and taste like ordinary cigarettes....
3. Tobacco comes good
Siobhan Ryan
Courier Mail February 15, 2002

TOBACCO could become Queensland's newest health crop. Brisbane company Farmacule Bioindustries has begun "reconnaissance" visits to far north Queensland, with plans to turn transgenic tobacco, banana or even sugar cane plants into mass producers of therapeutic proteins. Farmacule chief scientific officer James Dale, who conducted formative research at the Queensland University of Technology, said yesterday that molecular farms were no longer the stuff of science fiction." In the US, they're already a reality," Dr Dale said.

 "Australia's been a bit slow -- but we're planning to take off pretty quickly."

He said that in the American state of Virginia alone, the new protein production industry had increased the area under tobacco by half. The controversial technology involves inserting a gene that produces the desired proteins into a plant, which is then harvested and processed to extract the raw material for vaccines, antibodies or industrial enzymes. For vaccines, the genes added to the plant were drawn from human cells. Most of the genes used to make diagnostic products such as antigens came from mice. Those for enzymes (for food and other manufacturing industries) came from fungi. Dr Dale conceded that the transfer of genes across species was still a touchy consumer issue. But he said that "one of the big things is, it'd be taking a crop that has a pretty bad reputation, and turning it into a crop that would be extremely useful for humans".
4.  Italian environmentalists ready to battle "biotech wines"
BBC Worldwide Monitoring February 14, 2002, Thursday
ANSA news agency web site, Rome
Text of report in English by Italian news agency ANSA web site
Brussels/Rome, 14 February:

European Union farm ministers today approved the sale of genetically modified vines but Italian environmentalists and gourmet groups said they would put up stiff opposition against biotech wines. Green Party leader Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio blasted the EU for having made "an irresponsible decision" which amounted to "an attack against quality and (food) safety". Pecoraro Scanio had waged a lengthy battle against the approval of genetically modified (GM) vines as agriculture minister in the previous centre-left government. He said his party would do whatever it can, including taking legal action against the GM vines. "Evidently, the mad cow scare did not teach people a lesson," he said.

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