The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved an ultra-low gossypol cottonseed, ULGCS, to be utilized as human food and animal feed. ULGCS is derived from a transgenic cotton variety TAM66274 developed by plant biotechnologist Keerti Rathore and his team at Texas A&M AgriLife Research. TAM66274 is a unique cotton plant with ultra-low gossypol levels in the seed, which makes the protein from the seeds safe for food use, but also maintains normal plant-protecting gossypol levels in the rest of the plant, making it ideal for the traditional cotton farmer.

ULGCS has the potential to make a significant impact on food security especially in poor, cotton-growing countries, according to Rathore. "The amount of protein locked up in the annual output of cottonseed worldwide is about 10.8 trillion grams," he said. "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."

The FDA approval for ULGCS is only the fifth for a university-developed, genetically engineered crop in the 25-year history of genetically modified products in the U.S., and is the first for a Texas university. According to Rathore, 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. For animal feed, the low-gossypol cottonseed can be used in the aquaculture and poultry industries.

Dr. Keerti Rathore in his lab with the new ultra-low gossypol cotton plants. Photo Credit: Beth Luedeker

(Source: Crop Biotech Update, International Service for Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications.