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Organize conferences, workshops and networking opportunities for the exchange of ideas and the dissemination of information

a# Number of persons ranking this response as one of the five most important.

bS Weighted priority score, with each member allowed to rank five topics, giving five points to the most important and one to the least. c* This topic not identified by any member of this group.

d0 This topic identified by at least one member of this group, but not identified as one of the five most important topics by any member of the group.

a# Number of persons ranking this response as one of the five most important.

bS Weighted priority score, with each member allowed to rank five topics, giving five points to the most important and one to the least. c* This topic not identified by any member of this group.

d0 This topic identified by at least one member of this group, but not identified as one of the five most important topics by any member of the group.

The discussion procedure had six steps (Leslie and Frederiksen, 1995):

1. Presentation of the problem or question to the team in writing, together with a statement of the level and type of ideas sought.

2. Recording of ideas in a round-robin fashion.

3. Serial discussion of each idea or concept for the purpose of clarification.

4. A preliminary vote ranking individual ideas.

5. Discussion of the preliminary vote to clarify the voting.

6. Final vote (a repetition of step 4).

Steps 5 and 6 were optional and were deleted if not needed or if time was a constraint. This six-step process allowed each team to formulate a statement containing a list of the most important problems, which affect further research in the topic area. Findings of the teams were presented to the entire group collectively in a plenary session, with the goal that additional ideas and modifications would be solicited and recorded. The ideas were summarized into cohesive statements keeping the voting pattern intact to reflect the priorities attached to each idea that was amalgamated into individual statements (Tables 1-4). We attempted to preserve all of the ideas expressed in these discussions as they were recorded because we expect ideas that were of lesser importance now might come to dominate the field in the future.

Conclusions

The meeting participants identified several key areas. The foremost area was that of communication - with the farming and consumer constituency, with government and international aid officers, and with one another. Both farmers and consumers need to understand that there is a real or potential problem with mycotoxins in their food, and that the chronic long-term effects of exposure to low levels of mycotoxins may be either debilitating or lethal. Mitigation of the worst of these effects is possible with some relatively simple technologies that need to be better publicized. Government and international aid officials need to hear a similar message and to participate in the notification process. As the mycotoxin problem is interdisciplinary in nature, this communication will be difficult since many of these officials have a mandated area that will be touched by mycotoxins, e.g., health, trade or agriculture, but will be dominated by other problems with a narrower focus. Finally communication amongst the various scientists was viewed as essential, since many of the scientists at the meeting were unaware of the breadth of research in progress on mycotoxin-related topics.

A second key area was to develop the protocols and infrastructure to remediate and/or quantify toxin problems. Some of this work needs more research and development, but much, including some dietary interventions and biocontrol strategies are essentially ready to implement. Development of testing laboratories is a matter of building and equipping the necessary laboratories and recruiting/training qualified personnel to staff them. Action in these areas is for implementation on a relatively broad scale, as the techniques needed are already available.

Finally there is a need for further research. The medical impacts of chronic, low-level exposure to mycotoxins are poorly understood for aflatoxins and not understood at all for any other mycotoxins. Differences between pathogens from tropical and temperate areas are poorly described, even though temperate zone models and hypotheses often fare poorly when applied to tropical conditions. The identification and development of technologies aimed at low-input, subsistence agriculture is a continuing challenge with unique attributes that receives, at least relatively speaking, little specific attention.

The central theme running through all of the meeting and the discussion groups was that food quality, food security, food safety and mycotoxins are all facets of a common problem that will require a multi-disciplinary, cross-sector effort to characterize and remediate. Single sector approaches will help, but any sustainable solution will go far beyond what any single sector approach can be expected to supply, since the energy derived from the synergistic interactions accompanying a cross-sector approach will be at least a part of the overall solution.

References

Delbecq, A.L., van de Ven, A.H. and Gustafson, D.H. (1975) Group Techniques for Program Planning: A Guide to Nominal Group and Delphi Processes. Scott, Foresman and Company, Glenview, Illinois.

Durbin, R.D., Frederiksen, R.A., Kelman, A. and Renfro, B.L. (eds.). (1980) Proceedings of the International Conference Downy Mildew Diseases (28 November - 3 December 1979, Bellagio, Italy). The Rockefeller Foundation, New York.

Leslie, J.F., and Frederiksen, R.A. (eds.). (1995) Disease Analysis through Biotechnology: Interdisciplinary Bridges to Improved Sorghum and Millet Crops. Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa.

Mughogho, L.K. (ed.). (1984) Sorghum Root and Stalk Rots: A Critical Review. International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, Patancheru, A.P., India.

Potter, M., Gordon, S. and Hamer, P. (2004) The Nominal Group technique: A useful consensus methodology in physiotherapy research. New Zealand Journal of Physiotherapy 32, 126-130.

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