Mycotoxins have scourged mankind for thousands of years causing death, hallucination and misery. Since the 1960s with the identification of aflatoxin the toll extracted by these compounds from human populations in developed countries has continuously decreased with increasingly effective government regulations and routine monitoring of the food supply reducing recognized problems by orders of magnitude. The reality in less-developed countries could not be in starker contrast. Food insecurity, few if any enforced regulations, and harsh environments that favor fungal growth and toxin production combine to make chronic myco-toxin contamination and its associated health problems another cruel fact in an already difficult life. The lack of appreciation of these problems amongst policy makers and the general populace limits the public demand for a scientific solution to little more than lip service except when mycotoxins threaten the pocketbook, usually as a non-tariff trade barrier. The EU recognition of this problem led to the establishment of the MycoGlobe research network with participating scientists in the public and private sector from every continent in the world coordinating their efforts to determine the range of potentially contaminated products.
In sub-Saharan Africa the aflatoxin, fumonisin and ochratoxin mycotoxins are common, economically important, and health hazards for humans and domesticated animals due to both chronic and acute toxicological manifestations that include cancer, mutagenicity, birth defects and estrogenic, gastrointestinal, urogenital, vascular, kidney and nervous system disorders. The compromised immune response that accompanies chronic exposure to some mycotoxins reduces resistance to infectious disease and may be the most important and the most underappreciated of the health problems associated with mycotoxins. The reduction of growth and development of children exposed to aflatoxins may reduce quality of life and limit an individual's ability to reach their potential. In 1996, the UN Commission on Sustainable Development approved a work program on indicators of sustainable development that included mycotoxins in food as one of the components/indicators related to protection and promotion of human health.
In 2004, the European Commission approved the "Integration of Mycotoxin and Toxigenic Fungi Research for Food Safety in Global System (MycoGlobe) Specific Support Action" within the Sixth Framework Programme. The aim of the MycoGlobe Specific Support Action (contract number FOOD-CT-2004-007174) was to implement the outcomes of a wide range of European research projects in the area of mycotoxins and toxigenic fungi by supporting, stimulating and facilitating cooperation between countries in the European Union and other countries that have bilateral scientific and technological cooperation agreements with the European Union. As a part of the MycoGlobe Specific Support Action, the International conference "Learning from EC: Reducing Impact of Mycotoxins in Tropical Agriculture with Emphasis on Health and Trade in Africa" was organized in Accra, Ghana, 13-16 September 2005. The conference brought European and US investigators to Africa to interact with local scientists to identify key mycotoxin constraints in tropical Africa and the Mediterranean, to explore challenges and opportunities to mitigate health and trade problems associated with my-cotoxins, and to sensitize policy makers and opinion-leaders to the urgency of reducing myco-toxin-related problems. The goal of the conference was to recommend priority actions in the areas of technical, institutional and policy options for improving public health and trade through management of mycotoxins from "field to fork".
Representatives from various development organizations, international research and development organizations, advanced research institutes in Europe and the United States and national research organizations in Africa, public health ministries, regulatory agencies, and farmers' organizations shared their experience on various issues related to mycotoxins. The chapters in this book touch on issues including health, trade, ecology, epidemiology, occurrence, detection, management, awareness and policy. A chapter based on structured discussions at this conference identifies priorities for mycotoxin management from technical, institutional and policy perspectives that can serve as a guide for development of inter-institutional, cross-disciplinary programs to reduce the severity of the current problems.
We thank the European Commission for funding the MycoGlobe project through which this conference was organized. The conference was organized by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ghana's Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), and Institute of Sciences of Food Production (ISP A) - CNR, and co-sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the African Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF), and two USAID-funded projects: the International Sorghum and Millet Collaborative Research Program (INTSORMIL) and the Peanut Collaborative Research Support Program (Peanut-CRSP). We thank all of them for their sponsorship and for their support of research presented at the conference.
This book is an outcome of the MycoGlobe conference in Accra. Most of the chapters are based on invited oral presentations made at the conference. The content of a number of poster presentations is generally missing. All chapters were reviewed for content and have been edited for style by one or more of the editors of the volume. We thank the corresponding authors for responding to our inquiries and suggestions in a timely manner. The opinions expressed in these chapters are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the editors, the European Union, or any of the sponsoring institutions.
We hope that this book will serve as a source of information on the occurrence and impact of mycotoxins on everything from trade and health to agricultural production in addition to suggesting opportunities for their management in Africa and elsewhere by researchers, policy makers and development investors.
John F. Leslie
Department of Plant Pathology Kansas State University (KSU) Manhattan, Kansas, USA
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
Institute of Sciences of Food Production (ISPA) National Research Council (CNR) Bari, Italy
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