Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Gene Tweak Makes Cottonseed Edible

(HealthDay News) -- The cotton plant has long been an important source of clothing for humans, but it may soon provide them with high-protein nourishment, too.

U.S. scientists say they've found a way to remove a toxic compound from cottonseed that's so far prevented the high-protein seed from being eaten by people.

"The exciting finding is that we have been able to reduce gossypol -- which is a very toxic compound -- from cottonseed to a level that is considered safe for consumption," Dr. Keerti Rathore, a plant biotechnologist at the Texas Agricultural Experimental Station, said in a prepared statement.

"Very few people realize that for every pound of cotton fiber, the plant produces 1.6 pounds of seed. The world produces 44 million metric tons of cottonseed each year. Cottonseed typically contains about 22 percent protein, and it's a very high-quality protein," Rathore said.

The researchers used special technology to silence the gossypol gene in the cottonseed but not in the rest of the plant. This is important because gossypol helps protect the cotton plant against insects and disease.

A few decades ago, U.S. scientists developed cotton plants that contained no gossypol, but they failed because they were vulnerable to disease and insects.

The study was published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More information
The American Medical Association has information about malnutrition in children.

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