An entirely new foodstuff—where it's needed most
Every year, the world produces 45 million metric tons of cottonseed—every bit of it inedible by humans because of the the presence of a toxic chemical called gossypol. But last year, scientists at Texas A&M succeeded in breeding seeds without the gossypol, while retaining it in the plant itself to ward off pests. The resulting seeds can be ground into a nutty-tasting, protein-rich meal.
"This is something that we feel has global implications because there are many parts of Africa where cotton is grown under harsh, dry conditions, where corn is not readily available," says Roy Cantrell, vice president of agricultural research for Cotton Inc., the industry's research and promotion arm. The challenge now: getting government approvals. That could take upward of five years, but the technology promises a new food source in poor African nations and, for an estimated 10 million cotton farmers there, higher incomes, too.