2016 World Mycotoxin Forum addressed “Mycotoxins in a changing world” and the discussion revolve around undeniable impact climate change on mycotoxin contamination in the global food and feed supply.
In coming years, Grain producers may need to adjust according to changing climate how they plant, what they plant and when. Warmer weather will increase infestations and result in increased use of pesticides and fungicides. The representatives from European stakeholder agencies reported, climate change is likely to increase the prevalence of mycotoxins in many countries – affecting animal and human health, feed and food quality, and global trade.
“All of us know the temperature is increasing and this means there will be more incidents of mycotoxin contamination in certain areas,” said Dr. Mari Eskola, science officer on the biological hazards and contaminants team with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
She also pointed that new mycotoxins may emerge and appear in regions where they had not commonly been found before, and the food supply chain will encounter more modified mycotoxins and an increase in co-occurrences – defined as more than one type of mycotoxin working together to create adverse health effects.
“Climate change is one of the key emerging issues – not just with mycotoxins – but with risk exposure in general,” said Dr. Vittorio Fattori, Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and FAO/WHO Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).
On this note, the number of speakers suggested that food shortages may be caused by high levels of mycotoxin contamination in different parts of the world. And, in areas where high levels are consumed, there will be an increase in certain types of cancer, chronic illnesses and long-lasting impacts on the development of children. In food-producing animals, farmers will experience lost productivity and more mycotoxin-related deaths.
Beyond implications for food and feed safety, increased mycotoxin contamination will also take a tremendous toll on the economies of the most impacted countries, specifically as it relates to their ability to export commodities to markets with low mycotoxin thresholds.
“In the perfect scenario, maximum levels are set so they are protecting public health, but also achievable through good management practices,” said Frans Verstraete, M.Sc., directorate general of health & food safety European Commission (EC), the agency responsible for setting maximum levels (ML) for mycotoxins in the EU. “However, the last few years we have been comforted situations where extreme weather conditions made it impossible to achieve the threshold even with good practices.”
In Africa, for example, $670 million in trade is lost due to mycotoxin levels consistently exceeding the maximum levels of export countries, reported Ranajit Bandyopadhyay with the African Union Commission.
Building off research conducted in 2003, an updated USDA economic research report suggests the impact of revenue lost to mycotoxins will increase in the short term and the effects of climate change will likely push these losses higher in the future.
The 2016 World Mycotoxin Forum, a bienniel joint meeting of The World Mycotoxin Forum and IUPAC International Symposium on Mycotoxins, was held in Winnipeg, Canada, June 6-9. The conference drew more than 400 international attendees.