Institute to Conduct Research On Aflatoxins, Toxin Contaminates Grains

The Ethiopian Institute of Agriculture Research announced that a research to identify the degree and extent of aflatoxins contamination, fungal toxin contaminates grains will be conducted in the coming five years.

Aflatoxins are highly toxic, cancer-causing fungal chemicals that suppress the immune system, retard growth, and cause liver disease and death in both humans and domestic animals. Aflatoxin exposure thus provides a challenge in efforts to improve people’s health, especially women and children.

Ethiopia doesn’t have a data showing the national aflatoxin contamination, apart from medium researches conducted by some universities on selected areas.

But these researched revealed that there is a risk from aflatoxin contamination, despite it needs detailed studies, Director-General of the Institute Dr. Fantahun Mengistu told ENA.

“It is difficult now to tell how many people died and suffered from aflatoxins contamination here in Ethiopia. A wide-ranging research is needed to know the exact status of aflatoxin contaminations and its impact” he said.

Cognizant with this fact, the Institute has set target to conduct a research to identify areas affected by the toxin and risk during the second growth and transformation plan period.

It is estimated that 25 per cent of world food, including maize, peanuts and cassava, are affected by aflatoxin contamination. These crops constitute the staple foods for the majority of African countries.

More than 4.5 billion people in the developing world are exposed to aflatoxins. Children below five years remain most vulnerable, with exposure damaging their immunity and causing stunted growth.

Parallel to the research, adaptation of a biotechnology, used in Nigeria to control aflatoxin will be carried out in collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) working in Nigeria and Kenya to control the toxin, he added.

According to him, the bio-control technology adopted and being used in Nigeria will help to control the toxin in Ethiopia, since it addresses the aflatoxin before it contaminates the crop.

Controlling the toxins, will help the country improve productivity and increase amount of agricultural export, he said.

“The first option we are interested to apply is controlling aflatoxins with bio-control solutions. This will help to increase productivity.” The bio-control solution widely used in the US reduces aflatoxins during both crop development and postharvest storage, and throughout the value chain.

By adopting this technology, a bio-control product called ‘aflasafe’ has been developed for use in Nigeria, in which the Institute is interested to adopt and use it in Ethiopia.

During the trial time, the technology produced positive results, including aflatoxin contamination of maize and groundnut was consistently reduced by 80-90 per cent.

Many organizations working in the area, including IITA suggested that this technology is effective in the African context because it addresses the source of aflatoxin – the fungus in the soil – before it can contaminate the crop prior to harvest.

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