Researchers are concerned about how climate change will affect mycotoxin contamination in crops. Mycotoxins are fungal toxins that are emerging as the earth gets warmer. They’re produced by fungi that grow in grains, making them harmful to livestock and humans.
John Winchell consults with farmers on mycotoxins and was featured in The Counter, discussing their newfound prevalence in the United States. Changing weather patterns means mycotoxins are found in cattle feed. Scientists have been monitoring these toxins and continue to, as the changing climate impacts food supplies.
Developed countries have mandated tests for mycotoxins, but developing countries do not. Mycotoxin spores need a specific climate and temperature to grow. These conditions are becoming likelier with climate change. “In countries where value chains are less organized, mycotoxins can be a completely different issue than in countries where agriculture is a well-managed business chain,” said Catherine Bessy, a food safety and quality officer with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Winchell and others are optimistic about the future and are working on sharing warnings and information with farmers. “We also know a lot more about how to test for mycotoxins,” Winchell says. “We have a lot more specific testing we can do, and we know much more about it. Years ago, we didn’t have that information. But with the technology we have now, and the management tools that we have on the farm, we’re actually getting ahead of this. I look forward to seeing how it will be in the next five years.”
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