• Home
  • News
  • Seeking mold-free food grain for Asia and the world

Seeking mold-free food grain for Asia and the world

December 17, 2010

More than 200 delegates from 34 countries attended the international mycotoxin conference “Mycored 2010: Global Mycotoxin Reduction Strategies,” in Penang, Malaysia during 01-04 December 2010. The conference, which focused on Asia and the Pacific Rim, was the first in a series of similar conferences to be held outside Europe as part of Mycored, and was co-organized by Universiti Sains Malaysia and CIMMYT, in collaboration with ISPA-CNR (Italian institutions).

Funded by the European Union Seventh Framework programme, Mycored is a large network of advanced research institutes working with mycotoxins and raising awareness about the need to reduce mycotoxin levels in the global food chain. Mycotoxins are produced by fungi that colonize in food crops and cause diverse health problems or even death in humans or animals that eat contaminated food grains.

In his opening remarks, Etienne Duveiller, associate director of CIMMYT’s global wheat program, highlighted the center’s longstanding presence in Asia and the importance of both maize and wheat production in the region. The center’s global expertise and strong networks for those crops with Asian national programs, through the CIMMYT offices in Turkey, Iran, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, India and China, contribute significantly to Mycored and to the reduction of aflatoxins in maize and vomitoxin (Deoxynivalenol, DON) in wheat. In a subsequent presentation, Duveiller addressed wheat breeding strategies to reduce mycotoxins.

CIMMYT maize pathologist George Mahuku gave a keynote address on varietal improvement to control Aspergillus flavus in maize. Because complete, host-plant resistance has not yet been found, Mahuku recommended integrated control measures to prevent the fungus from invading crops and to avert the fungus from spreading and producing toxin. “The high costs of current mycotoxin assay techniques is holding back breeding efforts,” said Mahuku. “We need cheaper yet reliable assaying tools.”

CIMMYT maize scientist Dan Jeffers chaired a plenary session on climate change and predictive models. Two of the largest hurdles to overcoming mycotoxins were identified as the high cost of detection techniques; and the difficulty of implementing regulations to minimize the effect of mycotoxin on vulnerable populations.

It was agreed that there is a need for more resistant germplasm and appropriate post-harvest strategies. The group also highlighted the need to translate scientific findings on food safety into accessible communications to raise the awareness of target groups, particularly farmers.