FDA Approves Texas A&M’s Ultra-Low Gossypol Cotton for Human and Animal Consumption

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Most people do not realize that cotton producers produce about 1.5 times as much seed as fiber or lint. Cottonseed is high in oil and protein. About 44 million metric tons of cottonseed with high protein levels are produced worldwide, but gossypol, a toxic substance in cotton plants, limits how cottonseed can be utilized. Ruminants can ingest a limited amount of cottonseed, but simple stomached animals cannot. Plant breeders were able to develop cotton varieties low in gossypol, but the varieties were never commercialized because reduced gossypol levels in the leaves allowed too much insect damage.

Using biotechnology, researchers at Texas A&M working on a project with Cotton Incorporated were able to maintain high levels of gossypol in the plant for insect protection while gossypol in the cottonseed reduced to safe levels for simple stomached animals. This makes cottonseed available as an energy and protein source for poultry, fish and humans and would be of particular value in developing countries where increased dietary protein is most needed. This ultra-low gossypol cotton was approved in the United States, first by USDA APHIS, and was recently approved for human consumption and feed use in aquaculture and poultry by FDA.

Cotton is certainly not unique in the fact that it produces chemicals to deter pests. The technology used to create ultra-low gossypol in cotton could be used in other plants as well.

Dr. Keerti Rathore

Featured image: Dr. Keerti Rathore in his lab with the new ultra-low gossypol cotton plants. Photo Source: Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Beth Luedeker