The European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme has recently awarded funding to the MyToolBox Project, a 4-year, €5 million effort to create a cloud-based platform that provides real-time, customised advice about mycotoxins to farmers and other decision makers in the food and feed chains.
The multidisciplinary team of scientists, engineers and IT specialists represent 23 governmental, academic and industry organisations from 11 countries. One of the companies involved is animal nutrition company Biomin. "The MyToolBox project has the potential to save tens of millions of euros annually in reduced crop losses and achieve real reductions in dietary exposure to mycotoxins, which is immeasurable in terms of benefits to human health," according to project coordinator, Professor Rudolf Krska of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) in Vienna. "The project's focus on prevention and empowering actors along the food and feed chain make it unique," commented Dr Gerd Schatzmayr, Research Director at the Biomin Research Center located in Tulln, Austria.
Biofuels in the mix
The MyToolBox project will not only pursue a field-to-fork approach along the food and feed chain, but will also consider safe use options of mycotoxin contaminated batches such as microbial energy conversion to efficiently produce biofuels. Biomin will conduct lab and pilot scale testing of preventive measures to diminish the occurrence of mycotoxins in the production of biofuels and fermentation by-products such as distiller's dried grains with solubles (DDGS), often used in livestock feed. "The bioethanol industry may see a revenue boost and livestock producers could see animal health and performance improvements due to higher quality DDGS thanks to lower mycotoxin contamination," noted Dr Gerd Schatzmayr.
Mycotoxin surveys from Biomin 2009-2015
EU, China, biomarkers and regulation
A number of major agricultural markets currently have no framework in place to provide guidelines for mycotoxin deactivation products such as feed additives. Biomin will deploy its extensive know-how in mycotoxin biomarker analysis —aflatoxins and fumonisins in particular— to inform feeding trials to be conducted in China as part of a broader interest in the development of such regulations. "MyToolBox is a leading scientific endeavour linking European experts with their Chinese counterparts and reaching out to the rest of the world," commented Prof Samuel Godefroy from University Laval, Québec, Canada, one of the project's international expert advisory board members, former Vice Chair of the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission and current senior food regulatory advisor to China's National Centre of Food Safety Risk Assessment (CFSA). "The applied nature of the project and its outreach will no doubt lead to not only enhancing food safety and consumer protection in the EU and in China, but will also foster trade of safe food and agrifood commodities worldwide," he added.
EU registration for product
"There is a clear benefit to the livestock industry and end consumers generally in having 'rules of the road' that govern the safety and efficacy of mycotoxin deactivators," emphasised Dr Schatzmayr. In 2005 Biomin led the EU Association of Specialty Feed Ingredients and their Mixtures (FEFANA) Task Force that eventually resulted in the establishment of a new functional group of feed additives: mycotoxin deactivators. Biomin is the only feed additive company to have secured EU authorisation for the mycotoxin deactivating properties of its products, and has done so for 3 innovative substances.