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Genetically Engineering Tobacco's Image

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Biotechnology is being used to rescue the troubled tobacco industry with a healing face lift

Biotechnology is being used to rescue the troubled tobacco industry with a healing face lift. Your money is being used for the research! Agriculture Canada and the London Health Sciences Centre (an industry-funded agency) are working hard to develop a tobacco plant with medicinal benefits.

Last summer the first genetically engineered (GE) tobacco field trials began in London, Ontario. The fields were operated by the Southern Crop Protection and Food Research Centre, an industry-cum-govcrnment biotech study. It's called "molecular farming" and is offered as crop incentive to farmers as a "'huge potential for co-operation between the agriculture and health care industries." (Western Producer, Nov 18,1999)

Tobacco plants being tested have been genetically engineered to contain the human gene for a protein called interleukin-10. The tobacco leaf is promoted to treat such diseases as Crohn's and inflammatory bowel syndrome and is supposed to give tobacco a more "benign'' image. Cigarettes will no longer be ''harmful to health." Quite the contrary! The "healing" tobacco crops are not promised to reduce the craving for nicotine. Nor will the new crop replace the present $300-million tobacco industry in Ontario. It's simply "value added" and AG Canada along with tobacco companies are simply attempting to hide under the flimsy skirts of the Health Protection Branch of Health Canada.

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