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.
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.