Platform for African – European Partnership in Agricultural Research for Development

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Breaking the Mold: Impacts of Mycotoxins

20th May 201. Washington, DC United States. USAID. This month’s agrilinks seminar was an opportunity for agronomists, nutritionists, sociologists and field staff to share their background and experiences on the science behind mycotoxins and their health impacts and shifted towards integrating mycotoxin responses into agricultural development programming.

Agrilinks and the Agriculture Sector Council Seminar Series are products of the USAID Bureau for Food Security under the Feed the Future Knowledge-Driven Agricultural Development (KDAD) project. Watch the power point presentation (37 slides)

Speakers:
  • John Bowman, USAID Bureau for Food Security 
  • John Leslie, Kansas State University 
  • Felicia Wu, Michigan State University 
Nothing represents the interface between agriculture and nutrition as appropriately as the aflatoxin issue. 
Elimination/mitigation of aflatoxin in the ag value chain will have a significant positive nutrition/health outcomes This is the perfect type of subject matter that FTF was conceptually designed to work on – a new breed of agriculture that is intimately tied to health outcomes.
Aflatoxin free staple foods would be an agricultural result with a huge nutritional outcome - so why are the funding levels so low for such a pervasive problem? The Global Health Community is not convinced it is a priority equal to MCH, diarrheal and pulmonary diseases. It is not a primary killer but an an “accelerator” – requiring a more convincing “evidence base.

Overview of Feed the Future Investments in Aflatoxin Research and Development: 
  1. Feed the Future (FTF) has, conservatively, tripled or quadrupled investments in mycotoxin-related areas since inception 
  2. The total pool of investments is relatively low considering the potentially high levels of damage to health and productivity 
  3. The current mix of investments may be “off” – with possible need for strategic re-alignment – in order to bring in more funds
Johanna Lindahl (ILRI, Kenya) commented: We are not having any USAID funded project at the moment, but we are very interested in future projects aiming at looking at alternative uses of contaminated crops, especially the potential of using it as animal feeds, either with higher levels to less sensitive species, or in combination with binders or biological control measuresWe have been discussing nixtamilisation in our group, but we have not found a way in adopting it to the African problem at a large scale. Nixtamalization can actually be reversed in the digestive system, thus reactivating the aflatoxin. This may be the case with many of the biological binders as well, such as Lactic acid bacteria, and I think this would be worth studying further. 
Bryan Sobel (Cornell University, Institut Senegelaise de Recherche Agricole (ISRA) quoted: Aflatoxin‐detoxification achieved with Mexican traditional nixtamalization process (MTNP) is reversibleby Méndez‐Albores, JA; Villa, GA; Del Rio‐ García, JC; Martínez, EMJurnal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, ISSN 0022-5142, 09/2004, Volume 84, Issue 12, pp. 1611 - 1614  
Conclusion for discussion:
Fund much more work on the evidence base and less on ag best practice, (eg. breeding, storage structures, biological control) - As a result, more donor/ministerial funding that is “health sensitive” will roll in at a much higher levels of magnitude – which can ultimately be “re-applied” to ag best practice interventions. Thus the problem now may be poor “balance” in the limited funding pool – too little funding in ag/health linkage areas which have the potential to build the evidence base, possibly enabling higher levels of overall donor commitment in the future.

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