Source: The Scientist

The US Department of Agriculture has announced it would deregulate a strain of cotton that university researchers had genetically engineered to carry low levels of poisonous gossypol in its seeds. The idea is that the modified cotton’s seeds could be grown for food.

Cotton is known for its white fibers that can be woven into soft fabrics. But for every pound of fluffy, white lint, the plant produces 1.6 pounds of peanut-size seeds. Those seeds contain high levels of gossypol, which protects the plant against pests and disease but makes cotton seeds inedible.

Texas A&M University’s Keerti Rathore and colleagues inserted DNA into the cotton plant to turn off the gene responsible for producing gossypol in the seeds. The genetically engineered strain still has protective levels of gossypol in its shoots and leaves, but reduced amounts in its oil- and protein-rich seeds, which could potentially be eaten by humans, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) announcement.