Experts present at the opening ceremony of the International Mycotoxin Conference 2014 held in Beijing on Tuesday opined that China needs to take swift action to combat toxic fungus varieties threatening grain harvests. High ranking delegates said that the greatest challenge facing the country in this area was the prevention of mycotoxins. This would enable the world’s second-largest economy to improve food security, said China Academy of Agricultural Sciences head, Chen Mengshan.
With over 300 delegates in attendance from over 28 countries, the four-day conference is being hosted by the Institute of Agro-products Processing Science and Technology.
According to experts, food and food products that are contaminated with mycotoxin cause losses to the tune of USD 13.6 billion annually. Official figures from the State Administration of Grain show that nearly 31 million metric tons of grains are tainted with mycotoxins every year at various stages of processing and logistics.
This amounts to about 6.2% of China’s total output of grains. Efficient control and prevention measures can help the country avert these mycotoxin-centric loses.
Mycotoxins, which thrive in hot and humid climes, are fungal metabolites generated by molds. Their toxic properties make them a threat to human and animal health, and can cause severe sickness sometimes leading to death through ingestion, inhalation or absorption via the skin.
Mycotoxins pose a threat to agricultural production and human health, and global warming is creating temperatures that are more conducive to their growth.
While on the one hand China is going to great lengths to increase its annual output of grain by 1 percent, these efforts are thwarted by the increasing prevalence of mycotoxins.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, nearly 25% of crops globally are affected by mycotoxins annually, with losses of over 1 billion tons in food products.