GMO Tobacco Plant Produces Cocaine in Its Leaves, Drug Users Rejoice

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

To the delight of drug connoisseurs, pioneering Chinese scientists — who, as we’ve been made painfully aware of over the past three years, often recklessly tinker with genetics — have enzymatically manipulated a species of nicotine to produce cocaine in its dried leaves.


Via Genetic Literacy Project:

A tobacco plant relative called Nicotiana benthamiana has been genetically modified to produce cocaine in its leaves.

Cocaine is produced naturally in the leaves of the Erythroxylum coca plant, and scientists set out to recreate this process in N. benthamiana.

A team from the Kunming Institute of Botany in China altered N. benthamiana to produce two enzymes that generate cocaine when its leaves are dried.

The breakthrough could lead to a way to manufacture cocaine, or produce chemically similar compounds for medicinal purposes.

Here’s a direct expert from the study published in the American Chemical Society:

De novo reconstruction of cocaine was realized in N. benthamiana with the two newly identified genes, as well as four already known ones. This study not only reports a near-complete biosynthetic pathway of cocaine and provides new insights into the metabolic networks of tropane alkaloids (cocaine and hyoscyamine) in plants but also enables the heterologous synthesis of tropane alkaloids in other (micro)organisms, entailing significant implications for pharmaceutical production.

According to reporting from Tech Times, the GMO Frankentobacco “could create 400 nanograms of cocaine per milligram of dried leaf, or roughly 25% of the amount found in a coca plant.”

Cocaine enthusiasts are notorious for pairing gratuitous nicotine consumption with benders (aka chain-smoking) like peanut butter and jelly. Now they can conceivably, following more research and development, kill two birds with one stone.


This is the win the cocaine community has needed ever since puritanical social pressure forced Coca-Cola to remove the cocaine from its refreshing beverage over a century ago.

(Elon Musk recently floated buying Coca-Cola to re-infuse it with cocaine, but he’s currently occupied with ironically censoring Alex Jones on his free speech platform and developing brain chips for the peasants — torturing and killing thousands of animals in the process — while finding time in between to publish edgy meme Tweets to entertain the sizeable reactionary faction of the right that lauds him as some kind of second coming of Christ. His hands are full.)

Alas, cocaine remains a Schedule II controlled substance, so barring some libertarian revision of the code, we won’t be seeing cocaine cigarettes on the shelves any time soon. But, as we’ve learned in the context of fentanyl, American laws certainly won’t prevent Chinese entrepreneurs from importing them through Mexico for black market distribution.



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