Likely nearterm impacts

Africa is not the only region to lose export markets or to be paid a lesser price due to aflatoxin concerns. The United States, India, China, Argentina and some Southeast Asian countries are encountering similar difficulties (Dohlman, 2003; Wu, 2006). African losses are most likely to occur for peanuts, since little maize is exported from Africa other than from South Africa (Wu, 2004). The major economic losses in both maize and peanut trade will accrue to China, the United States and Argentina.

Lowering allowable aflatoxin contamination levels to 10 ng/g in the developed countries will have a minimal and epidemiologically undetectable benefit of saving two lives per billion people, as neither the hepatitis B nor the hepatitis C viruses are widely distributed in most of these countries (Henry et al., 1999). A further reduction from 10 ng/g to 2 ng/g is unlikely to have any additional health benefit while clearly imposing additional economic costs. Application of such standards in developing countries could have significant health, and presumably economic, benefits as many of those living in such countries consume a steady diet composed primarily of maize (Shephard et al., 2007), some of which is heavily contaminated. Such consumption often is of necessity rather than by choice due to the need to sell the least contaminated material for cash and of the lack of food security in many developing countries. The current lowering of aflatoxin contamination limits by the European Union could exacerbate this problem by encouraging the consumption of more contaminated grain by those who can least afford the additional exposure to the toxin, and by discouraging farmers from these countries from even attempting to grow crops suitable for sale in international markets (Wu, 2004). Note that a reduction of the allowable aflatoxin contamination in peanuts from 20 ng/g to a 4 ng/g harmonized standard would lead to rejection of 86% of the peanuts now being exported worldwide for excessive aflatoxin contamination (Wu, 2006).

The cost of managing mycotoxins and doing the requisite testing also must not be overlooked. In the United States, the estimated cost for testing of all mycotoxins, not just afla-toxins, is between US$ 500 million and US$ 1.5 billion per year (Robens and Cardwell, 2003). If the number of commodities evaluated and the number of mycotoxins analyzed for is reduced, then it is possible to establish effective mycotoxin testing laboratories in Africa (Waliyar et al., Chapter 31). To be economically justifiable, such laboratories usually need to be regional in nature since the associated costs often would weigh heavily on the economy of many developing countries. Thus, the establishment of standards that are based on clear health benefits and the development of both infrastructure and regulatory frameworks that enable these benefits to be realized remain high priority issues in determining the economic impact of mycotoxins on the safety of various agricultural commodities.

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