Scaling up Cure for a Dangerous Human, Maize & Groundnut Toxin

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An agreement has been signed between the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Bamtaare Services SA for the manufacture and marketing of Aflasafe SN01, a product to combat the dangerous human and plant compound known as aflatoxin in Senegal and The Gambia.

Aflatoxins pose significant risks to human health. A ban on export of contaminated products such as groundnut and Maize some countries in Africa has resulted to economic loses for many farmers and communities. Maize and groundnuts, commonly grown in Senegal and The Gambia have been found to be contaminated with these dangerous toxins. Across Sub Sahara Africa, Aflatoxins are a threat to cassava, chili, rice, sorghum, teff, and major cash crops such as coffee, cocoa, tea, and sugarcane. Aflatoxins have also been found in processed foods such as peanut butter, chocolate, and foods from animal sources like egg and milk.

The agreement signed last Thursday, September 21, 2017, allows Bamtaare Services SA to construct a plant to produce Aflasafe SN01 in the Kaolack region of Senegal. Aflasafe SN01™ is an all-natural biocontrol product made of non-toxin producing Aspergillus flavus highly competitive to other toxin producing Aspergillus flavus. Trails to ascertain it reduces aflatoxin have been conducted in farmers’ field in Senegal and the Gambia for five years. This biocontrol product has proven to be effective in reducing aflatoxin right from the field. IITA developed Aflasafe SN01 in collaboration with national and international partners.

“Our vision is to ensure that every farmer producing maize and groundnuts have access to Aflasafe where and when it is needed,” said Mr. Abdou Konlambigue, Director of IITA’s Aflasafe Technology Transfer and Commercialization Project.

“We are very proud to collaborate with BAMTAARE to bring Aflasafe closer to farmers in Senegal and the Gambia. This is the first license granted to a private company in Africa, and we are fully committed to making it a success.”

Considerable Effects on Health and Wealth in Africa

The effects of aflatoxins on health and wealth in Africa are substantial. They cause about 5 to 30 percent of liver cancer in the world, with the highest incidence occurring in Africa

(30 percent). As an invisible poison that cannot be seen, tasted or smelt, aflatoxins suppress the immune system and delay the growth of children.

About 40 percent of the products on African markets exceeded the maximum allowed aflatoxins. Africa is potentially losing up to $ 670 million a year in export opportunities.

In the 1960s and 1970s, 66 percent of Gambia’s agricultural export income came from groundnuts. Since then, they have decreased considerably because of aflatoxins. Similarly, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Senegal’s groundnut exports have fallen by nearly half, from a peak of 51,450 tons in 1970 to 26,635 tons in 2013. Like in most parts of Africa, groundnuts that do not meet strict regulations for aflatoxins in export markets are sold locally and regionally, thus exposing consumers to aflatoxins.

Aflasafe Reduces Aflatoxins by up to 99 Percent

According to Thursday’s agreement, Bamtaare Services SA will start production and distribution of Aflasafe SN01 in June 2018. Meantime, IITA will provide technical and business development support.

Developed in Africa and adapted to address the types of aflatoxins present in each country and region, Aflasafe reduces aflatoxins by up to 99 percent, scientists say.

In Senegal and The Gambia with similar agro-ecological zones, the product name is Aflasafe SN01. Launched in Senegal and the Gambia in March 2017, the product is exclusively distributed and marketed only by BAMTAARE SA in both countries.

The West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development is collaborating with IITA to identify the atoxigenic Aspergillus flavus strains in maize and groundnut samples collected in 13 member countries of the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel in order to develop the corresponding cure. Identification of strains composing either product will lay the foundation for scaling out the biocontrol technology.

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