Researchers from the Central Tobacco Research Institute (CTRI) near Mysore claim that organically grown tobacco contains fewer harmful substances than its conventional peer.
CTRI's startling revelations come at a time when the World Health Organization (WHO) is pressurizing the Union Government, which is a signatory to the Framework Convention Tobacco Control, to discourage cultivation of tobacco on account of its harmful effects.
Head of CTRI, M.M. Shenoi was quoted that CTRI research proved that organically grown Flue Cured Variety tobacco, used in cigarettes, contained fewer harmful substances such as nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide.
"It is possible to produce safe cigarette tobacco through organic farming," Shenoi claims. He does add that the findings were only the "trends" of the research, which is expected to continue for two or three more years before a "conclusion" could be arrived at.
"The findings are based on the first year's trials. We are now in the second year of research. Only after continuing the research for two or three more years, will we be in a position to decide on the promotion of organic cultivation of tobacco among farmers," Shenoi said.
While organic farming does promise to slash the content of harmful substances in tobacco, Shenoi concedes that the yield of tobacco would be decreased by about 35 per cent, in comparison to conventionally grown tobacco.
Yet, he adds that research is on to reduce this gap of yield.
During field trials, tobacco was grown without the use of any chemical fertilizer or pesticide used in conventional tobacco farming methods.
"We used vermi compost and neem-based bio- fertilizers and pesticides," Shenoi informs.
Though the yield of organic tobacco did come down by a third, in comparison to conventional farming, Shenoi says that the percentage of bright grade tobacco or superior quality tobacco did increase substantially. The research was confined to Flue Cured Variety of tobacco, used in cigarettes.
Incidentally, this is the first time research had been taken up on organic farming in tobacco. According to Shenoi, the results can be termed so far successful, as far as 'safe cigarette tobacco', is concerned.
Shenoi adds that the Flue Cured Variety of tobacco grown in Mysore region has a moderate amount of nicotine and admissible levels of tar.
The other harmful substance of tobacco known as TSN (Tobacco Specific Nitrosamines) is below detectable range in Flue Cured Variety of tobacco grown in the region, he states.