Seeding Hope for Millions
Cottonseed ground into flour to deliver protein to millions of people, a project to which Dr. Keerti Rathore has devoted more than half his professional career, is one step closer to reality.
Rathore, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant biotechnologist in College Station, received word that Texas A&M’s “Petition for Determination of Non-regulated Status for Ultra-Low Gossypol Cottonseed (ULGCS) TAM66274” has been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or APHIS.
Texas A&M University Chancellor John Sharp, who oversees Texas A&M AgriLife Research along with 11 universities and seven state agencies, said Rathore’s work will have a dramatic effect across the world.
“The work and dedication of Dr. Rathore has paid off,” Sharp said. “He and his team exemplify the values of the Texas A&M System, and because of them, more than half a billion people across the world may have access to a new form of protein, and our farmers will be able to earn a much better living.”
Through a project funded by Cotton Incorporated, Rathore and the Texas A&M team have developed a transgenic cotton plant – TAM66274 – with ultra-low gossypol levels in the seed that maintains normal plant-protecting gossypol levels in the rest of the plant.
Dr. Kater Hake, vice president of agricultural and environmental research at Cotton Incorporated, said it has been a decades-long journey.
“Gossypol suppression in cottonseed has been part of our funded research portfolio for over 30 years,” Hake said. “It took time to tap the innate protein potential in the seed; time for the right technologies to develop; and time for the right research team to come along.”
Tom Wedegaertner, director of cottonseed research and marketing at Cotton Inc., underscores the potential of the breakthrough and the journey through the regulatory process.
“Gossypol in the leaves and stalks of the cotton plant serve as a pest deterrent, but its presence in the seed serves no purpose,” Wedegaertner said. “The more widespread use of cottonseed as a livestock feed and even for human consumption has been stymied by the natural levels of gossypol in the seed. As we progress through the regulatory review, the ability to utilize the protein potential in the seed gets that much closer.”
The recent USDA action confirms that TAM66274 and any cotton lines derived from crosses between TAM66274 and conventional cotton or biotechnology-derived cotton granted non-regulated status by APHIS are no longer considered federally regulated articles, he said.