EU-China cooperation ensures safe and secure food supply for all
By sharing advanced methodologies and practical solutions for growers, traders, food and feed manufacturers, and policy makers, the EU-funded MycoKey project is strengthening the partnership between China and the EU.
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Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites produced by fungi that, even in low concentrations, are extremely toxic to animals and humans. Little wonder that their occurrence in crops is of major concern one with significant implications for food safety, security, and trade. Perhaps even more concerning is that the extreme weather events caused by climate change are increasing the spread of mycotoxins.
Around the world, it is estimated that mycotoxins account for between 5 and 10 % of all annual crop losses. In Europe, who produces nearly EUR 33 billion worth of crops annually, this could translate into a loss of over EUR 1 billion every year. To help reverse this trend, two EU-funded projects, MycoKey and MyToolBox, bring together academia, farmers, tech SMEs, the food industry, and policy makers to develop new interventions aimed at reducing mycotoxin-caused crop loss by up to 90 %.
In the MycoKey project, a strong collaboration between Europe and China is geared towards exchanging best practices and co-developing new solutions for effectively managing mycotoxins in maize, wheat, and barley.
MycoKey is working to develop smart, integrated, sustainable solutions and innovative tool kits to reduce the major mycotoxins in economically important food and feed chains, says project coordinator Dr Antonio F. Logrieco.
A sustainable approach to controlling mycotoxins in China
The project includes 11 Chinese partners from different wheat and maize producing areas and representing nearly the entire food/feed chain for mycotoxin management. Coordinated by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences Institute of Plant Protection (IPP-CAAS), these partners are conducting research focused on such topics of local interest as fungal biodiversity, plant resistance, early detection, and the influence of climate change.
Using EU research guidelines and applying the MycoKey approach, IPP is establishing an effective, sustainable strategy for controlling mycotoxin in the pre-harvest stage, says Dr Zhang of the IPP-CAAS and the projects Chinese coordinator.
From this work, the team has already elicited the lifecycle of the toxic Fusarium fungi in different types of crops. Based on this information, we can now predict mycotoxin contamination more accurately, adds Dr Zhang. We also developed an innovative, cost-efficient on-site detection technique that, together with our ability to better predict contamination, lets us extend the period of time that we can control the spread of mycotoxin.
In the last year of the project, which ends in 2020, the Chinese component will focus on integrating the control technologies across the country. There are also plans to apply for additional funding.
Benefits on both sides
For the Chinese partners, the MycoKey project is a unique opportunity to work with experienced colleagues. It has been very valuable to conduct locally-focused research using EU guidelines and regulations and the projects multi-actor approach, which will likely promote food and feed exports to the EU and vice versa, says Dr Zhang. In addition, the EU know-how on mycotoxin issues and management has been instrumental in enlarging our knowledge on the topic.
A sound and interactive community strategy will play an important role in shaping agriculture and industry in China and Europe, says Dr Logrieco. By sharing advanced methodologies and practical solutions for growers, traders, food and feed manufacturers, and policy makers, the MycoKey project is strengthening both the European food/feed safety system and the partnership between the EU and China.