Sure, the cotton industry wants us to think that the material is the fabric of our lives. But maybe it actually is–in more ways than one. Cotton can usually only be eaten by cattle, which have stomachs that can break down gossypol–a toxin that damages human livers and hearts. Now a team of researchers at Texas A&M University have figured out a way to cut down on gossypol, making nutrient-rich cotton edible for both humans and livestock.
The technology isn’t entirely new. Researchers managed to remove gossypol from cotton for the first time in the 1950’s, but diseases and insects destroyed it since they didn’t have a toxin to discourage them. The Texas A&M team, however, took a different approach: they only removed gossypol from the seeds, so the cotton plant’s tissue, stems, leaves and flowers still offer protection from predators.
So who in their right mind will eat cotton? The plant actually contains 22% protein and is supposedly quite tasty. Researchers speculate that it could be added to all sorts of foods as a nutritional additive for malnourished populations. The new gossypol-free plants could also be a boon for cotton farmers, who could sell their plants to both the textile and food industries. Don’t be surprised, then, if you find yourself eating cotton-filled protein bars within the decade.
[Via UK Daily Mail]