B.S. Satish Kumar

The oil has been tested and is found to be edible: officials

‘Tobacco plants can be used for extracting edible oil, production of vaccines and pharmaceuticals’

‘There is no bar on cultivation of tobacco crop for alternative uses even after 2028’

BANGALORE: “Pakodas” fried in tobacco oil? Well, that may soon be a reality. According to top officials of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the oil has been scientifically tested and found to be edible.

The cost of the oil, produced from tobacco seeds, is said to be only half of what conventional edible oil costs.

Tobacco plants are synonymous with odorous cigarettes and beedis.

Alternative uses

But now scientists are trying to create awareness on alternative uses of tobacco as India has to reduce tobacco cultivation by 50 per cent by 2028 in accordance with a World Health Organisation directive.

Director, Central Tobacco Research Institute, V. Krishnamurthy, explained that there was no bar on cultivation of tobacco crop for alternative uses even after 2028. ICAR Deputy Director-General S.K. Datta pointed out that tobacco plants could be used for several other applications such as extracting edible oil, production of vaccines and pharmaceuticals.

Progress

He told The Hindu on the sidelines of a workshop on tobacco organised by the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, and Central Tobacco Research Institute here on Saturday that the U.S. and several European countries were making progress with regard to alternative uses of tobacco, especially in pharmaceuticals.

Mr. Datta said that the tobacco plant had several bio-components which were useful in production of vaccines, enzymes, bio-compounds and medicines, especially related to treating malaria and cholera.

Advantage

He said that the advantage was that the tobacco plant had higher bio-mass and the cost of production of bio-compounds would be cheaper.

In fact, it was possible to extract nicotine from the tobacco plant and sell it as there was high demand for it in the pharmaceutical industry, he said, while pointing out that the plant was also rich in proteins.

Potential

Mr. Datta and Dr. Krishnamurthy said that Karnataka, which topped in terms of production of international quality tobacco, had great potential to cash in on such alternative uses of tobacco.

Speaking at the workshop, assistant director-general, ICAR, K.C. Jain stressed the need for moving to alternative uses of tobacco.

Vice-Chancellor of UAS P.G. Chengappa released a book, “Two decades of research on FCV tobacco”, brought out by the All India Network Research Project, Shimoga.

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