US approves transgenic cotton variety as human food source

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The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the use of genetically-modified cotton seed for human consumption, paving the way for edible cottonseed. The cotton plant was developed by Texas A&M University scientists and the seed is allowed as food for people and all types of animals. It taste is similar to that of chickpeas.

Its developers say the protein-packed new food source could help tackle global malnutrition.

According to Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant biotechnologist Keerti Rathore, the scientists are discussing with companies to have the plant commercially available within five years. The team also will explore seeking regulatory approval in other countries, beginning with Mexico, according to a news agency report.

Ordinary cottonseed is now used to feed animals like cattle and sheep that have multiple stomach chambers. It is unfit for humans and many animals because it contains high levels of gossypol, a toxic chemical. The team used so-called RNAi, or RNA interference, technology to ‘silence’ a gene, virtually eliminating gossypol from the cottonseed.

Gossypol was left at natural levels in the rest of the plant because it guards against insects and disease.

The genetic modification does not affect the plant’s fibre for use in textiles.

The US department of agriculture (USDA) last year lifted the regulatory prohibition on cultivation by farmers of the modified cotton plant ahead of the FDA decision on human consumption.

The modified cottonseed will be crushed to extract oil that can be used for cooking. The leftover meal with its high protein content can be used as a protein supplement in tortilla, bread and baked goods. The seed kernels can be roasted and eaten as snack or as peanut butter type of spread or in protein bars, Rathore said.

The new cotton seed may also have commercial use as feed for poultry, pigs and farmed aquatic species like fish and shrimp, she added.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

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