The effect of expression of bean alpha-amylase inhibitor (alpha-AI) transgene on the nutritional value of peas has been evaluated by pair-feeding rats diets containing transgenic or parent peas at 300 and 650 g/kg, respectively, and at 150 g protein/kg diet, supplemented with essential amino acids to target requirements. The results were also compared with the effects of diets containing lactalbumin with or without 0.9 or 2.0 mg bean alpha-AI, levels equivalent to those in transgenic pea diets. When 300 and 650 g peas/kg diet were fed, the daily intake of alpha-AI was 11.5 or 26.3 mg alpha-AI, respectively. At the 300 g/kg level, the nutritional value of the transgenic and parent line peas was not significantly different. The weight gain and tissue weights of rats fed either of the two pea diets were not significantly different from each other or from those of rats given the lactalbumin diet even when this was supplemented with 0.9 g alpha-AI/kg. The digestibilities of protein and dry matter of the pea diets were slightly but significantly lower than those of the lactalbumin diet, probably due to the presence of naturally occurring antinutrients in peas. The nutritional value of diets containing peas at the higher (650 g) inclusion level was less than that of the lactalbumin diet. However, the differences between transgenic and parent pea lines were small, possibly because neither the purified recombinant alpha-AI nor that in transgenic peas inhibited starch digestion in the rat small intestine in vivo to the same extent as did bean alpha-AI. This was the case even though both forms of alpha-AI equally inhibited alpha-amylase in vitro. Thus, this short-term study indicated that transgenic peas expressing bean alpha-AI gene could be used in rat diets at 300 g/kg level without major harmful effects on their growth, metabolism and health, raising the possibility that transgenic peas may also be used at this level in the diet of farm animals.