Cottonseed for Human Consumption?

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Most people think of cotton lint and do not realize that cotton produces about 1.6 pounds of seed per pound of lint. The oil processed from cottonseed can be used for human consumption but the high quality protein cannot be feed to humans or other monogastric animals (poultry and hogs) due to a toxin produced by the plant. The toxin is called gossypol.

Gossypol is produced by the plant to protect itself from insects. There have been efforts to conventionally breed cotton with reduced gossypol levels that have been successful. Unfortunately, the cotton without gossypol suffered from severe insect damage. Researchers at Texas A&M were able to utilize genetic engineering to reduce gossypol to safe levels in the seed while maintaining high gossypol in other plant parts to help protect the plant from insects.

The USDA approved this reduced gossypol trait, called ultra-low gossypol. Integration of this trait into commercial varieties could provide increased markets for cottonseed. This could be especially valuable in developing countries that are in need of more protein in food for humans and feed for animals.

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