Scientists from the Technical University of Dortmund, Germany successfully grew tobacco plants that only contain 0.04 milligrams of nicotine per gram – 99.7 percent less than other common plants. The team published their research in the Plant Biotechnology Journal in early June this year.
The gene-editing method CRISPR was the key to generating the near-unnoticeable level of nicotine in their plants. CRISPR was able to disable six plant enzymes that help produce the addictive substance that is a well-known ingredient in cigarettes and other tobacco products.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) previously released a statement on their website in 2018 detailing that the organization believes reducing nicotine levels in tobacco products can reduce bodily harm in active smokers. However, studies produced in science magazine New Scientist refute this claim, although they did conclude that low-levels of nicotine could help users smoke less or quit their habits altogether.
Whether or not the new plants will be safer or more effective has yet to be fully determined.