Weird Research: Genetically Altering Tobacco For Use As Biofuel Crop

tobacco harvesting photo

Tobacco harvesting machinery. Image credit:Kirpy.

Welcome to addictive auto emissions. Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University are working toward turning tobacco into a source of oil used for biofuel (Science Daily). Breathing exhaust could be good for long haul truck drivers trying to stay awake in traffic.

What happens to the leaf residues once oil is extracted? Isn't US tobacco production acreage deed restricted to limit supply? Bit of an occupational health exposure risk if picked without harvesting machines, as agricultural workers who tend or pick tobacco may experience "green tobacco sickness" (GTS), caused by skin permeation of nicotine. Imperial Tobacco of Canada reports a GHG (CO2) intensity of tobacco production around 0.85 ton/ton.(pdf file) Tobacco is a highly soil-depleting crop. Aside from those issues, vroom vroom.

Question. If researchers succeeded in developing a nicotine-free tobacco variety and it accidentally cross-pollinated with traditional tobacco plants used for smoking products, would that be a good thing or a bad thing? Just wondering.

More tobacco posts.
Smoking: Environmental and Social Impacts
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Tobacco Farmers Make Ethanol from Sweet Potatoes

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