Beware of the aflatoxins! Beware of the aflatoxins! … Uh, What are Aflatoxins?


Funguses (or fungi if you prefer) are both good and bad.  The good ones are tasty mushrooms or yeast that makes bread rise.  Bad funguses can damage wheat or potato crops.  Some of the worst funguses turn into a variety of poisons called aflatoxins.  Aflatoxins exist widely on many foods such as maize (corn to Americans), peanuts, sorghum, and rice.  These toxins were only discovered in the late 1950s because they only rarely cause short-term deaths.  Instead, they cause long-term development of liver disease, cancers, allergic reactions, and other symptoms.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 25% of global food crops are contaminated with aflatoxins and other fungal toxins, particularly in the developing world.  The fungal toxins are particularly serious in the developing world where food preservation is not always adequate —maintenance of dry conditions, canning, refrigeration, or freezing.

Fungal mitigations are a major type of research and type of purchase items for producers.  The mitigations extend from harvesting at the right time through maintaining dry conditions, cleaning the crops, de-hulling, heating, and application of pesticides.  

Another specialized industry of fungal biopesticides is working to boost growth of non-poisonous funguses that crowd out the poisonous fungi or even degrade the toxins.  The related genetic analysis and genetic engineering programs are an ongoing little-known process that is crucial for continued safe food production.   

Such biopesticides may be a major help in keeping humanity fed and healthy.


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