Mycotoxins

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Climate change: Higher mycotoxin associated costs

Climate change patterns in the decades to come will affect mycotoxin levels in crops and consequently the costs for grain growers and feed mills. This is stated by Felicia Wu from Michigan State University in the US.

She presented these insights at the latest World Mycotoxin Forum. The paper is currently in press for the World Mycotoxin Journal.

In her paper, Wu describes how climatic factors affect the presence of toxigenic fungi and their associated mycotoxins in food crops. She also discussed how economic losses may accrue to growers because of the regulatory policies that limit mycotoxin levels in human food and animal feed. “The higher the naturally-occurring mycotoxin levels, which for certain crops and in certain regions of the world would increase based on future climate scenarios, the higher these costs are likely to be. These costs occur in several ways,” Wu explains.

• Costs will increase to bring foods to grain elevators and handlers that meet mycotoxin MTL.

• There are also costs associated with testing at the level of grain elevators, handlers, and processors; as well as crop insurance costs for excessively high mycotoxin levels (AMCE, 2015) in certain countries. Costs will also rise because a substantial portion of foodstuffs will be rejected for excessively high mycotoxin levels.

• From the global food trade standpoint, food producers can incur large costs attempting to export mycotoxin contaminated foodstuffs to nations with strict mycotoxin standards.

• More indirectly, in high contamination years, crop spoilage through fungal infection and mycotoxin contamination can lead to a significant percentage of the supply unsuitable for the market.

• Economic losses associated with reduced animal production and compromised human health.

Aflatoxins remain major concern

The bulk of these increased costs are likely to be due to increased aflatoxin levels in crops, as it is expected that aflatoxin will likely cause the most damage from future climate scenarios. This is because aflatoxin levels are typically consistently higher in crops under conditions of warmer temperatures and higher atmospheric CO2 levels such as would be expected in the next several decades in maize- and groundnut-growing regions of the world. Wu also addresses that more nations have regulatory standards for aflatoxin than for any other mycotoxins. For other mycotoxins, there is greater uncertainty as to whether future climate scenarios will dramatically change the economic losses associated with their presence in foodstuffs.

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