U.S. regulators on Friday gave the green light for genetically modified cotton to be used for human consumption, paving the way for a protein-packed new food source — edible cottonseed that tastes a bit like chickpeas — that its developers said could help tackle global malnutrition.
The Food and Drug Administration’s decision on the cotton plant developed by Texas A&M University scientists means it is allowed as food for people and all types of animals.
Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant biotechnologist Keerti Rathore said that scientists were holding discussions with companies and hope to have the plant commercially available within about five years. Ms. Rathore said the team also will explore seeking regulatory approval in other countries starting with Mexico.
“Yes, we are fully aware of the resistance to GMOs in many countries, but I remain hopeful that counties who are desperate for food will adopt this technology,” Ms. Rathore added.
Ordinary cottonseed is unfit for humans and many animals to eat because it contains high levels of gossypol, a toxic chemical.
Ms. Rathore’s 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 fiber for use in textiles, scientists said.