Although cotton has been grown for its fiber for thousands of years, the use of its byproduct, cottonseed, on a commercial scale is relatively new in comparison. A little more than 100 years ago, producers began pressing cottonseed for its edible oil.
Today, 20 million cotton farmers produce 44 million metric tons of cottonseed, eliminating tons of waste. Now, cottonseed is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration for its use in thousands of common household and food products, cosmetics, medical applications, livestock feed, fertilizers and fibers.
Research is currently underway to uncover more ways to optimize the healthful characteristics of cottonseeds including its lack of trans-fat, gluten and cholesterol and significant amount of protein.
Specifically, Cotton Incorporated is funding research at Texas A&M University where scientists have silenced the gene that produces gossypol, a natural pest deterrent that’s toxic in high doses to humans and animals. The result is a new ultra-low gossypol plant that only has gossypol in the stems and leaf, leaving ultra-low levels of gossypol in the seed. The collaboration hopes that these results will work to advance ultra-low gossypol plants as a healthy food source for both humans and animals.
In fact, additional research funded by Cotton Incorporated is underway at New Mexico State University where glandless cotton is being grown, processed and trialed on campus. Gossypol is only produced within tiny glands in cottonseed. The university is testing the glandless cottonseed in use as a cooking oil, wheat substitute and fish meal substitute in feed for farm raised shrimp.