In a big breakthrough, researchers from Texas A&M University have engineered edible cottonseed that is expected to feed millions of people. Having the nutritional value similar to other nuts like almonds or walnuts, this edible variety of cotton is poised to enter the market.
Recently the U.S. Department of Agriculture gave a preliminary go-ahead to a biotech version of the cotton plant whose seeds can be eaten. However U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval is still needed, which is expected within months.
Professor Keerti Rathore, from Texas A&M University started working on this project 23 years ago. Cotton seeds are packed with protein but regular plants produce a toxin called gossypol which can damage our liver and heart, making it inedible to humans and most animals.
Researchers figured out how to silence a gene in the plant that produces toxin
Talking about its taste, Rathore said, “It’ll taste like hummus,” “It’s not at all unpleasant.”
It will be great news for the cotton-producing countries that are struggling with famine and malnutrition. Farmers will have a source of extra income who can sell the seeds, currently considered a near useless byproduct.
“I also realized the value to cotton farmers everywhere of removing gossypol from the cottonseed because such a product is likely to improve their income without any extra effort on their part or additional input,” Rathore said. “Such a product can also be important from the standpoint of sustainability because farmers will produce fiber, feed and food from the same crop.”