WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Oct. 17 deregulated a cotton variety genetically engineered to have low levels of gossypol, which is toxic to humans, in its seed. The research at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, potentially expands the use of the seed to human food and to the livestock and aquaculture feed industries.
The U.S.D.A.’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in the Oct. 17 issue of the Federal Register, which may be found here, said the variety of cotton, called TAM66274, is unlikely to pose a plant pest risk to agricultural crops or other plants in the United States.
The seed in the new cotton variety may be ground into flour to add protein to food items, according to Texas A&M University. Cotton seed is about 23% protein.
Keerti Rathore, Ph.D., a plant biotechnologist at Texas A&M, has worked for 23 years trying to develop cotton plants that produce seeds containing gossypol levels below what the Food and Drug Administration considers safe. Funding for the research came from Cotton, Inc., which is involved in finding new technologies and methods of cotton production and manufacturing and developing new uses for the cotton plant.
Gossypol, a naturally occurring compound in the pigment of cotton plants, protects the plants from pests and diseases. The new variety maintains the gossypol levels in the plants, but the levels are reduced significantly in the seed. Gossypol is toxic to humans and animals that are monogastric, which means they have a single-chambered stomach. Examples of monogastric animals are pigs and fish.