World Food Forum

To ensure food safety we have to undestand biological systems and fight natural toxins
18 july 2016

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Rudolf KrskaRudolf Krska, Head of the Center for Analytical Chemistry of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Vienna

What is the impact of climate change on food safety?
Climate change can potentially make our food system vulnerable towards issues in relation with the occurrence of contaminants, particularly of natural toxins. There is a great variety of different contaminants which can enter the food supply, and while pesticides are very well known, less known are so-called natural toxins or also mycotoxin.
Since climate change can have an impact on the production of mycotoxins, to ensure food safety it is important for us to know why some fungi produce toxins which enter the food supply and how can we actually make a food crop, for instance wheat or maize, fit to fight these toxins. There are some resistent plants which are able to detoxify the toxins in the plant: studying them is crucial to know which genes are responsible for the production of the toxins and which genes are responsible for the plant to detoxify these toxins.

How can these studies help ensuring food safety?
When we understand the entire biological system, then we can find the right strategies, like breeding techniques, to breed resistent plant genotypes which have a genetically based resistence against fungi production on the one hand and against mycotoxins production on the other hand.
Our research focuses very much on detection techniques, so before you find a strategy to fight mycotoxins you have to control mycotoxins and identify with novel analytical methods which contaminants produced by fungi are there. Once you know about this, then you can identify right strategies. Nowadays we are looking at the entire food chain to prevent fungal growth on the soil to breed resistent wheat or maize and to identify the right milling strategies and baking strategies to reduce mycotoxins in the food factory.

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