Folk medicine has always found some therapeutic value in tobacco. Now the Central Tobacco Research Institute (CTRI) based in Guntur in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh has bagged the patent rights for for 'solansole' (a medicine extracted from tobacco for use in the manufacture of cancer and cardiac drugs).
At the inaugural of the institute's diamond jubilee celebrations, Director V. Krishna Murthy Deputy, revealed that the patent was obtained in October last.
Already Chinese are breathing down the Indian neck, as it were. Nanjing Huaguan Development Of Biotechnology Co is into the export of solanesol, described in its promotional material as a key medical intermediate in the synthesis of cardiac drugs,anti-ulcer drugs and anti-cancer drugs. Obviously India has to race fast.
Assistant Director-General (Commercial Crops) of ICAR K.C. Jain, in his address, said that the alternative uses of tobacco should be increased in the coming years.
Inaugurating the celebrations, Director-General (Crop Science) of Indian Council for Agriculture Research, New Delhi, P.L. Gautam said: "May be tobacco is dangerous to health. But, it is having multi utilities and benefits being the most income-generating commercial crop that helps farmers in a big way."
Tobacco is an important commercial crop grown in the country. It occupies third position in the world with aproduction of about 680 Million Kgs. Of different types grown, flue-cured tobacco, country tobacco, burley, bidi, rustica and chewing tobacco are important. India, as an exporter of tobacco, ranks sixth in the world next to Brazil, China, USA, Malawi and Italy.
Tobacco and tobacco products earn a whopping sum of about Rs.7319 crores to the national exchequer in terms of excise revenue and foreign exchange of Rs.1362 Crores (2004-05). Furthermore, tobacco provides gainful employment to several lakhs of people who thrive on this weed crop.
Flue-cured growth, with a production of about 240 million Kgs, is the singular type which contributes huge amount of forex and excise earnings. More or less, 50% of the FCV tobacco produced is consumed domestically while the rest is exported to more than 100 countries across the globe. Other tobacco types viz., Burley, Country tobacco, Chewing tobaccos (Lal chopadia, Judi and Rustica) are also exported where as bidi tobacco - a poor man's smoke - is consumed within the country.