US scientists managed to remove the toxic gossypol only from the cottonseeds.
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Cottonseed is unsuitable for consumption by humans because it contains the toxin gossypol. A US scientist has now succeeded in specifically removing the toxin from the plant’s seed without negatively influencing any of its other characteristics.

For every pound of fibres, the cotton plant also yields 1.6 kilogrammes of seed. World-wide, 48.5 million tons of seed is created. Cottonseed has a 22 per cent protein content and is highly nourishing. However, the cotton plant also contains the toxin gossypol, which deters harmful insects.

While attempts in the 1970s to grow cotton without gossypol were successful, the plants in the field did not survive insect attacks. Scientist Keerti S. Rathore of the University of Texas, in the USA, has now managed to remove gossypol only from the cottonseed, so that the latter is palatable for humans. The toxin remains in the rest of the plant and thus continues to act as an insect deterrent. The seed could make an important contribution to improving protein supply in the countries that grow cotton.

Rathore opted for the so-called RNAi method. It is modelled on nature’s ribonucleic acid interference. RNA translates hereditary information into proteins.

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