Scientists in Australia have developed a method by which cotton plants can be genetically engineered to produce oils that can be used in healthier cooking oils and margarine products.

By switching off the cottonseed genes that convert the monounsaturated fatty acid (oleic acid), scientists found they could prevent the production of polyunsaturated fatty acids. While these acids are nutritionally valuable, they are unsuitable for cooking because they break down under extreme heat.

Furthermore, the research, which was carried out at CSIRO's Plant Industry division, has enabled scientists to process cotton plants without the need for "hydrogenation," a process that can result in the production of trans-fatty acids. These are believed to raise cholesterol.