Major Trends in Mycotoxin Research
Mycotoxins, produced by fungi that colonise foods and feeds may be carcinogenic, cytotoxic, oestrogenic, immunosuppressant, nephrotoxic, neurotoxic or teratogenic compounds and pose, therefore, serious public and animal health hazards. Food and feed safety, as a major concern all over the world, is the driving force of mycotoxin research and development activity. The present study provides an overview of the major mycotoxins and mycotoxicoses including chemistry, toxicity, and detection of mycotoxins. Special attention is devoted to biodiversity, genetic variation, life cycle strategies, pathogenicity and identification of toxigenic fungi. Risk assessment and climatic models developed to predict mycotoxin contamination of crop products are considered as potential solutions of reducing the threat of mycotoxicoses. The role of storage conditions and food processing technologies in the reduction of mycotoxin concentrations are also discussed.
Food without Zoonotic Agents: Fact or Fiction?
Over the last decades considerable investment has been made to produce safe food. In many industrialised countries food is safer than ever before due to continuous efforts, but this can never be taken for granted. Some existing microbiological food safety problems still remain a challenge; well-known pathogens may be transmitted by hitherto unknown vehicles and new pathogens will continue to emerge. Many factors influence the changing epidemiology of pathogens and their emergence is only partly predictable or explainable. The majority of foodborne pathogens have their reservoir in the animal population. Therefore, one of the keys for future preparedness to detect new trends, to implement control measures and to predict the effect of interventions is intersectoral collaboration between animal health, the food sector and public health.
Altering Foods Derived from Animals for the Future?
Breeding and feeding of food-producing farm animals has long been mainly oriented to maximising production efficiency. High-yielding dairy cattle and layers produce nowadays cheap milk and eggs respectively, and fast-growing pigs, broilers and beef cattle provide us with lean meat. However, the transition from a producer-driven to a consumer-oriented market forces the animal industry to pay more attention to the sensory and technological properties and the health value of their products. The immense ongoing research on improving the fatty acid composition of animal products mainly through altered feeding strategies is a good example thereof. In monogastric animals, the potential of nutrition for steering the fatty acid composition of raw meats and eggs is now relatively well established, whereas in ruminants the fatty acid metabolism is more complex as a result of the rumen processes. The potential of animal genetics for modifying the fat content and the fatty acid composition of animal products should also be further explored. Animal products are also safe carriers of essential trace elements and other nutrients, and more research for upgrading the value of animal products in this respect is warranted. The effects of altering the composition and properties of raw animal products on the sensory quality and the health value of the end products should be better established. In particular, human intervention studies are required to evaluate the impact on human health of consuming animal products. Overall, a cost-benefit evaluation of the potential contribution of altering raw animal products to improving the health of consumers should be made. It is evident that this requires a fork-to-farm chain approach, taking into account the needs of the animals, the farmers, the food processing industry and the end consumer.
Plants for the Future
The present millennium has started with unprecedented global menaces with serious implications for mankind. The management of the planet’s resources, the consequences of climate change, the problems generated by the food crisis require prompt actions. Actions at political and managerial level that take into account the contributions that science and technology can bring. The main challenges are: food and feed security; a much more sustainable agriculture; improved cash crops as raw material for the chemical and manufacturing industry; and, above all, actions for the preservation of the last surviving wildlife areas. The challenge is to produce better and more. The millennium goals are far from met. The number of undernourished people is reaching 1 billion. We need to produce more, to fulfil the demand of diversified agricultural products, and to guarantee a decent income to the farmers in the developing and emerging countries. To produce better, to satisfy sanitary and environmental requirements, biotechnologists have developed prototype plants that take up fertilisers more efficiently, need less irrigation and are more resistant to biotic and abiotic stresses. It is our mission to ensure that this knowledge is used in a wide range of breeding programmes, to generate the crops of the future.
Genetic Resources as the Building Blocks for Breeding: Current Status and Challenges
During the 20th century among plant and animal land species, the sources of genetic diversity have disappeared at an alarming rate for most domesticated species. Furthermore, no country is self-sufficient in this area. Geographical and intergenerational dependency on genetic resources for food and agriculture is very high and access to them continues to be a prerequisite for effective agricultural research and breeding. The OECD member countries are among the most dependent on genetic resources from abroad. International co-operation is therefore a must. The negotiation in FAO, and wide ratification of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) early this century, have been a significant achievement and a hope for the conservation, sustainable use, and continuous availability of these resources. However, a considerable effort is still needed, including making the ITGRFA fully operative in all countries and at all levels. In addition, many crops of the past which are neglected today, as well as many wild species, are expected to play a critical role in food, medicine and energy production in the near future.
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