Debate on research priorities related to the push-pull approach and aflatoxin mitigation

  • 12th September 2016
  • by secretary
12 – 25 September 2016. From Monday 12th of September onward PAEPARD is holding an online debate during two weeks with some 300 experts or actors which are implementing research and development activities related to aflatoxin.

The International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) have been invited by PAEPARD to suggest innovative fundamental and applied research for the mitigation of aflatoxin contamination. 

  • Recent observations from icipe indicate significantly reduced attack of maize by ear rots and mycotoxins with the push-pull technology, implying potential contribution of the technology to food safety. 
  • The Aflasafe products of IITA are ready to be manufactured and distributed to farmers at scale. There are presently further research needs for aflatoxin biocontrol using atoxigenic genotypes of Aspergillus flavus.

The first week (12-18/09/2016) discusses holistic approaches to aflatoxin : the push-pull and aflatoxins research needs
The second week (19-25/09/2016) discusses research needs related to aflatoxin biocontrol

Both back ground notes are introduced in video interviews:

  • PAEPARD video interview with Prof. Dr. Zeyaur R. Khan, Principal Scientist and Leader of the Push-Pull Programme at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe)
  • PAEPARD video interview with Dr. Charity Mutegi. She is the aflasafe project’s Kenya Country Coordinator.

This discussion is NOT held on the PAEPARD Dgroups but the sub-Dgroups:
You need to register on this sub-Dgroup to participate in the debate.


  • October 2015 : PAEPARD produced a policy paper on: The role of multi-stakeholder partnerships between Africa and Europe exemplified by the issue of aflatoxin contamination of food and feed.
  • January 2016 A Round Table of aflatoxin experts was organised in Brussels. The purpose of this a Round Table was to provide new perspectives, share experiences and highlight potential solutions to the contamination of food and feed with aflatoxins that are re-emerging today in Europe but since decades have been threatening livelihoods and productivity growth in Africa and many other low income countries throughout the world.
  • 15-20 August 2016 : A field visit in Kenya was organised by the East African Farmers Federation in collaboration with the Max Rubner Institut (Germany) for German aflatoxin experts. 
  • 25-26 August 2016 : Meeting in Brussels USAID – DG Research and DG Health. 
  • 28 August 2016 : Deadline Public Consultation concerning potential priorities for the Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2018-2020 in the area of ‘Food Security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine and maritime and inland water research and the bioeconomy’ (Societal Challenge 2). The Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA) and some other partner organisation submitted a contribution.
  • 14 September 2016. Deadline first draft scoping paper Societal Challenge 2 for the Programme Committee of SC2
  • 11-13 October, 2016. Entebbe, Uganda. The African Union Commission will host the 2nd PACA biennial Partnership Platform Meeting (PPM)
The first week (12-18/09/2016) is discussing holistic approaches to aflatoxin mitigation. The push-pull research needs related to aflatoxins are used as a reference to trigger the debate. To kick-off the discussion you will find below two reactions on the note from icipe. 
To illustrate the icipe note:

  • Prof. Dr. Zeyaur R. Khan, Principal Scientist and Leader of the Push-Pull Programme at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) was interviewed by PAEPARD on 22nd of August (icipe, Thomas Odhiambo Campus, Mbita Point, West-Kenya). 
  • You will find in this blog post the transcript of the interview, background videos on the push pull technology
  • You will find at the bottom of this blog post the Power Point Presentation: “Improving Food Safety by Reducing Aflatoxin Infection in Cereal Crops grown under Push-Pull System”. (this icipe PPT was viewed 455 times)

Major contributions to the debate will be released during the day. Reactions will be compiled.

As a general introduction we also refer to the PAEPARD video interview with Dr. Janet Edeme, Head Rural Economy Divison, African Union Commission, Dept. of Rural Economy and Agriculture. The special issue of AJFAND (August 2016) is a contribution to better understanding several aspects of the multi-faceted problem of aflatoxins, focused on East Africa.

 Dr. Edeme answered following questions:

·         How serious in the aflatoxin contamination?
·         What do you expect from donors?
·         Why is PACA important for multi stakeholder coordination?
·         Don’t we need greater awareness of the consumer?

Video interview with Dr. Janet Edeme

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Given that the push-pull technology controls stem borer there should be a reduction in fumonisin as well as aflatoxin.
I know we have tried to keep the discussion focused on aflatoxins but this may be an opportune moment to broaden the discussion if only to acknowledge that mechanisms to control one fungi can control others and create greater overall health and trade benefits.
Kind regards
Andrew Emmott
Senior Associate,
Twin and Twin Trading Ltd (TWIN)
Video interview with Andrew Emmott at the bottom of following blog post

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I am sure most on this list know I would agree with Andrew.
I think we are at a point where there is a larger strategic question.
For groundnuts and other nuts, aflatoxin is the problem. Any reasonable steps to reduce exposure from this crop are absolutely supported by the science and the economics.
On the science –as well documented by the JECFA and IARC WG 9- co-exposure to aflatoxin and fumonisin is the norm not the exception in most of Africa. The 2011 JECFA panel concluded that the best evidence at that time was that fumonisin and aflatoxin were additive for some toxic endpoints and synergistic for cancer. The 83rd JEFCA was asked to re-examine this question in November in the context of a new evaluation of aflatoxin (the last was in 1998) and an update on fumonisin (I am on the panel). That is to say the public health concern about co-exposure is clear. Actions that are effective for reducing aflatoxin in maize and do not reduce fumonisin exposure may not result in a reduced cancer burden and would not reduce for example the risk of birth defects from fumonisin exposure.
At the same time,  excepting the unborn of women who might be in the early stages of pregnancy when exposed, aflatoxin is much more acutely toxic to children than fumonisin. In light of the issue in Tanzania just now, it has troubled me that the research that is being discussed would not help. For the JECFA draft, I revived all the records of acute toxicity. This has been going on since the first measurements of aflatoxin were made in 1961. The only thing that would outright prevent acute toxicity is improving dietary diversity and better sorting.
The evidence supports actions that concurrently reduce the amounts of both toxins in maize versus actions that reduce aflatoxin alone.
It is now 25 years since the South Africans reported the structure of fumonisin co-concurrently with some knowledge of its effects. The US NTP study was finished 17 years ago. There is now adequate evidence that fumonisin exposure in the early stages of pregnancy results in birth defects in folate deficient populations.
For me, the decision-makers need to be briefed that difficult choices are now inescapable. How will actions that mainly address population level exposure aflatoxin in maize also exposed to fumonisin be regarded 10 years from now?
Prof. David Miller
Carleton University, Canada
Chair of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Working Group.
Video interview with Prof. David Miller at the bottom of following blog post

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