The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given the green light to ultra-low gossypol cottonseed, ULGCS, to be utilized as human food and in animal feed. Keerti Rathore, a plant biotechnologist at Texas A&M University, and his team have developed, tested, and obtained deregulation for the transgenic cotton plant—TAM66274.

TAM66274 is a unique cotton plant with ultra-low gossypol levels in the seed, which makes the protein from the seeds safe to consume, Rathore said, but also maintains normal plant-protecting gossypol levels in the rest of the plant, making it ideal for the traditional cotton farmer.

“The amount of protein locked up in the annual output of cottonseed worldwide is about 10.8 trillion grams,” said Rathore. “That is more than what is present in all the chicken eggs produced globally, and enough to meet the basic protein requirements of over 500 million people.”

Until now, the ability to utilize protein-rich cottonseed for food or even as feed for the non-ruminants was not possible because of the presence of a toxic terpenoid, gossypol. Gossypol in the leaves and stalks of the cotton plant serve as a pest deterrent, but its presence in the seed serves no purpose. With the development and approval of the ULGCS, gossypol is no longer a deterrent.

The human food ingredients from TAM66274 cottonseed can be roasted cottonseed kernels, raw cottonseed kernels, cottonseed kernels, partially defatted cottonseed flour, defatted cottonseed flour, and cottonseed oil.

When used in animal food, the appropriate name for dehulled cottonseed derived from TAM66274 cotton is “low gossypol dehulled cottonseed,” and the appropriate name for dehulled cottonseed meal derived from TAM66274 cotton is “low gossypol dehulled cottonseed meal.”

Rathore said initially low-gossypol cottonseed protein can be used by two of the most efficient systems to convert feed protein into edible animal protein: aquaculture and the poultry industry. “Both of these industries are experiencing high rates of growth and are likely to continue growing for the foreseeable future,” he said.

Before getting approval from the FDA, the researchers had to secure non-regulated status for TAM66274 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS). The next step is to get cotton farmers and the industry around the world to begin growing and marketing the special variety.

With expanded use of ULGCS for human nutrition either directly as food or indirectly as feed, the cotton plant can potentially become a dual-purpose crop that will be cultivated not only as a source of natural fiber, but just as much for its seed to be used as a source of oil as well as protein, Rathore said. Importantly, he said, the ULGCS makes available a vast source of protein without bringing additional land under the plow or an increase in the input costs.

Press release

FDA approval

USDA approval (pdf)

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