The Cotton Research & Promotion Program applauds the recently-announced efforts of Texas A&M University researchers whose work, partially funded by Cotton Incorporated, utilized a new gene-suppression technology, Ribonucleic Acid Interference (RNAi). The innovative technology reduces the level of gossypol in cottonseed while allowing it to remain in the plant as a natural insect deterrent – which ultimately positions cottonseed in the food market.

“Since 1993, we have funded a great deal of contributed gossypol research that has helped guide researchers leading up to this success,” explained Roy Cantrell, vice president, Agricultural Research, Cotton Incorporated. “Because of this research, new food and feedstuff markets will be open for cotton.”

“This news is so overwhelming, my phone has been ringing off the wall,” said Keerti Rathore, plant biotechnologist at the Institute for Plant Genomics & Biotechnology, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station in College Station, Texas.

“We are obviously excited for cotton producers across the United States because this could eventually increase the value of their cottonseed by opening up new and varied food and feed markets,” states Dr. Cantrell.

RNAi is a powerful gene-silencing mechanism discovered by U.S.-based scientists Andrew Z. Fire and Craig C. Mello that is primarily used in medical research to arrest the development of cancer and other life-threatening diseases. “While we have been conducting the basics of this research for some time, Cotton Incorporated’s funding has allowed us to continue it and we hope to move forward with more research with their continued funding,” Rathore said. The major enzyme that was silenced, delta-cadinene synthase, was identified in earlier Cotton Incorporated-funded research.

Breeding cotton varieties with this trait will also take time, but the process will begin soon. “This is a trait derived from genetic engineering, thus requiring numerous regulatory steps for all federal agency approvals, from EPA, USDA and FDA,” Cantrell concluded.

“Determination and science are helping to keep cotton a thriving global industry,” said J. Berrye Worsham, president and CEO of Cotton Incorporated. “Our support of this research will help open new market opportunities for cotton across industries and around the world.”

To see how the RNAi technology works, visit: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/3210/02.html