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Project aims to reduce crop losses from mycotoxins

Mycotoxins, fungal metabolites that afflict cereals and other crops, cost the European agriculture industry EUR3 billion (US$3.4 billion) each year and pose harm to human and animal health through the feed and food chain. BIOMIN has joined a scientific research consortium that aims to cut this figure considerably.

“The MyToolBox project has the potential to save tens of millions of euros annually in reduced crop losses and achieve real reductions in dietary exposure to mycotoxins, which is immeasurable in terms of benefits to human health,” according to project coordinator, Professor Rudolf Krska of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) in Vienna.

The European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation program has recently awarded funding to the MyToolBox Project, a four-year, EUR5 million (US$5.7 million) effort to create a cloud-based platform that provides real-time, customized advice about mycotoxins to farmers and other decision makers in the food and feed chains. The multidisciplinary team of scientists, engineers and IT specialists represent 23 governmental, academic and industry organizations from 11 countries.

“The project’s focus on prevention and empowering actors along the food and feed chain make it unique,” said Dr. Gerd Schatzmayr, research director at the BIOMIN Research Center in Tulln, Austria, adding that “the commitment of BIOMIN to the MyToolBox project is a testament to cutting-edge scientific research in the service of the agricultural industry and society at large. Beyond the extensive R&D activities of BIOMIN, it highlights both the economic and societal benefits, reflecting our deeply held corporate social responsibility values.”

Biofuels in the mix

The MyToolBox project will not only pursue a field-to-fork approach along the food and feed chain, but will also consider safe use options of mycotoxin contaminated batches such as microbial energy conversion to efficiently produce biofuels.

BIOMIN will conduct lab and pilot scale testing of preventive measures to diminish the occurrence of mycotoxins in the production of biofuels and fermentation by-products such as distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS), often used in livestock feed.

“The bioethanol industry may see a revenue boost and livestock producers could see animal health and performance improvements due to higher quality DDGS thanks to lower mycotoxin contamination,” said Dr. Gerd Schatzmayr.

EU, China, biomarkers and regulation

A number of major agricultural markets currently have no framework in place to provide guidelines for mycotoxin deactivation products such as feed additives. BIOMIN will deploy its extensive know-how in mycotoxin biomarker analysis — aflatoxins and fumonisins in particular — to inform feeding trials to be conducted in China as part of a broader interest in the development of such regulations.

“MyToolBox is a leading scientific endeavor linking European experts with their Chinese counterparts and reaching out to the rest of the world,” said Professor Samuel Godefroy from University Laval, Québec, Canada, one of the project’s international expert advisory board members, former vice chair of the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission and current senior food regulatory advisor to China’s National Centre of Food Safety Risk Assessment (CFSA). “The applied nature of the project and its outreach will no doubt lead to not only enhancing food safety and consumer protection in the EU and in China, but will also foster trade of safe food and agrifood commodities worldwide,” he added.

“There is a clear benefit to the livestock industry and end consumers generally in having ‘rules of the road’ that govern the safety and efficacy of mycotoxin deactivators,” said Schatzmayr.

In 2005, BIOMIN led the EU Association of Specialty Feed Ingredients and their Mixtures (FEFANA) Task Force that eventually resulted in the establishment of a new functional group of feed additives: mycotoxin deactivators. BIOMIN is the only feed additive company to have secured EU authorization for the mycotoxin deactivating properties of its products, and has done so for three innovative substances.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No. 678012.

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