Biotech Updates

GE Cotton Could Help Improve Food Security

February 23, 2022

Dr. Rathore (middle), with his associates LeAnne Campbell and Devendra Pandeya. 
Photo Source: Tim Douglass | Scientia

Using cottonseed as food has been an unmet target of many plant breeders until Texas A&M University professor, Dr. Keerti Rathore, successfully developed gossypol-free cottonseed. This breakthrough has the potential to significantly contribute to global food security.

According to an e-book released by Scientia, over 20 million farmers worldwide depend on cotton for their livelihood. However, for every 1 kilogram of fiber produced, 1.65 kilograms of cottonseed mostly goes to waste because it contains a natural toxic compound called gossypol. Cotton plants produce gossypol as natural protection from microbial infections and insect pests. Even humans and other animals react to high concentrations of gossypol, which can cause organ damage and blood disorders. Through processing of cottonseed oil, gossypol can be removed and used for frying and baking. However, its abundant protein can only be used for cattle feed.

Dr. Rathore and his team used genetic engineering (GE) to hinder the production of gossypol in cottonseed. Using RNA interference, they were able to silence the genes involved in the production of gossypol. Known as ‘Ultra-Low Gossypol Cottonseed' (ULGCS), the cotton trait has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for human food and animal feed in 2019. Its low production cost and high-quality protein make ULGCS one of the promising tools to combat global hunger and malnutrition.

Download the e-book from Scientia for more information about ULGCS.

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