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2-Plants: Tobacco industry says 'no' to GE tobacco

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TITLE:  Tobacco industry says 'no' to GM crop
SOURCE: The Hindu Business Line, India
DATE:   Jan 24, 2003

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Tobacco industry says 'no' to GM crop

GUNTUR, Jan. 24 - THE tobacco industry is not ready to accept genetically
modified tobacco and introduction of GM crop would only harm the
interests of farmers and the industry, Mr H.D Papenfus, Chief Agronomist
of Standard Commercial Tobacco Services Ltd, the UK, has said.

Presenting a paper here on Friday on 'Clean tobacco' at the national
symposium, he said though tobacco was an extremely malleable crop, the
industry was in no mood at present to buy GM varieties and they should
not be commercially released. He stressed the importance of varietal
purity and seed integrity. Seed produced by farmers themselves would not
confirm to the minimum accepted international standards and local seed
production seed production should be strictly regulated, he said.

He said it would be a mistake for India to imitate Zimbabwean or
Brazilian styles of tobacco in the hope of capturing some of the markets,
as there was unrest in Zimbabwe. Those varieties may not be suitable to
India and they may not perform as well in Indian conditions.

Dr M.S Chary, former Director of the Central Tobacco Research Institute,
Rajahmundry, sought to know from Mr Papenfus why the Americans were
seeking to curb GM tobacco elsewhere in the world when Monsonto had
released one such variety in the US. Dr Papenfus replied that Monsonto
had only undertaken research into GM tobacco and had not commercially
released it. In some pockets of America, one GM Burley variety was being
grown unauthorisedly causing many problems, he added.

In response to Dr Chary's query, he clarified that he was not against
research into the area in order to improve the pest resistance of the
traditional varieties, but the commerical release of GM varieties was
fraught with grave risks. ''We must put a tight lid and bottle up this
particular genie,'' he remarked.

Answering a question on the wide range of acceptable pesticide residue
levels in the crop in the international market, posing many problems to
the exporters and farmers, he said it was a complex and confusing area
and it would have to be standardised. ''In the absence of an
internationally accepted standard, it should be the endeavour of
scientists to maximise yields with the minimum of chemical pesticide,''
he said.