One Serving of Cotton, Please; Hold the Poison
Genetic engineering unlocks protein that could feed millions
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 7, 2009 3:36 PM CDT
Cotton grows in a field near England, Ark.   (AP Photo)
camera-icon View 1 more image

(Newser) – Scientists have developed a novel genetic engineering technique that makes the protein-rich seeds of the cotton plant easily edible, Time reports. The entire plant, including the seeds, produces a toxic chemical called gossypol that protects it from insects and microbes. “People, pigs, chickens—none of us can stomach gossypol,” says a researcher. But remove the gossypol, and voila! Protein.

A similar effort in the 50s produced cotton plants stripped of gossypol, which quickly fell prey to infestation. The new technique targets only the seeds, and the plants have grown well indoors. “What works in the greenhouse should hold true in the fields,” the lead researcher says. Should the process gain approval, the seeds will likely be used for animal feed first, but human consumption shouldn’t be far behind. “It's not bad,” says the researcher. “Tastes like chickpeas.”