November 5, 2003

 

 

US' Scientists Researched Solution To Save Corn From Destructive Mold

 

After more than 20 years of research, scientists in the United States believe they have researched a solution that could save peanuts and corn from aflatoxin, a destructive mold that can destroy millions in crops.

 

Microbiologist Joe Dorner and other scientists at the Agriculture Department's National Peanut Research Laboratory have developed a control for aflatoxin that could reduce the mold by 70 - 90% in peanuts and help protect corn and other vulnerable crops.

 

"It's a good feeling to know that something you worked on could have benefits for folks in the peanut industry and ultimately corn or anything that could have a susceptibility to aflatoxin," Dorner said.

 

Dorner's agency, the Agriculture Department's Agricultural Research Service, has granted an exclusive license to Circle One Global in Cuthbert to produce a patented product known as Afla-Guard, a biological control for aflatoxin.

 

If EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) approves Afla-Guard by December, as expected, Circle One would have a supply ready for the next growing season, said Dan Gay, the company's president.

 

Two types of molds Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus that is widely grown produce aflatoxin. Outbreaks occur when certain crops, such as peanuts, corn and tree nuts, are stressed by droughts.

 

Pure aflatoxin can be lethal and prolonged exposure to foods contaminated with lesser amounts can cause liver cancer.

 

David Kay, the chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, reported recently that aflatoxin and ricin, a castor bean extract, were among the poisons that Saddam Hussein's scientists had been studying for possible use as biological weapons.

 

U.S. crops are carefully screened for the toxin, but Dorner said people in developing countries often have to eat contaminated grain because it's all they have.

 

"It is a serious issue in those countries because they are consuming highly contaminated food," he said.

 

Dorner said Afla-Guard reduced aflatoxin by 92% during field trials in 1998, as the Southeast was entering a five-year drought.

 

The typical reduction was 70 - 90% for the first application, he said, adding that farmers can expect even better protection when they treat again the following year.