MYTOX-SOUTH®: an international partnership striving to solve worldwide mycotoxin problems
The majority of the world’s food crops are contaminated with mycotoxins that have dangerous human health effects and cause significant food loss. The most affected crops are those produced in low- and middle-income countries that already face food safety challenges because of poverty, population growth, and climate change. Mycotoxins have a substantial economic impact, depriving low- and middle-income countries from trading with the rest of the world. While researchers have taken enormous steps to improve mycotoxin analysis and develop better prevention and mitigation strategies, low- and middle-income countries lack the capacity to implement relevant legislation or adequate prevention strategies and monitoring systems. To tackle this mycotoxin problem, MYTOX-SOUTH® has developed an international approach.
MYTOX-SOUTH®, founded by professors Sarah De Saeger and Marthe De Boevre in 2017, harnesses the expertise and infrastructure available at Ghent University and partner institutions to strengthen the worldwide capacity to tackle the mycotoxin problem and its associated food safety and food security issues. Co-creation between partners in the North and South has become a priority. The MYTOX-SOUTH® network has grown from 30 strategic, sustainable partners in 2017 to 47 in 2021 (Figure 1). MYTOX-SOUTH® is structured to bring together researchers with complementary mycotoxin expertise and includes six research groups from five Ghent University departments (14 individual partners), two US partners, three Chinese partners, six EU partners, 18 Sub-Sahara African partners, and four Latin-American partners. While the initial focus was primarily Sub-Saharan Africa, where food security and safety issues are the most pronounced, the consortium was later extended to 4 Latin-American partners, including Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina. In the coming year, our network will broaden to include South-East Asian countries as well.
Figure 1: MYTOX-SOUTH® structure. The colours on the map represent the evolution of partnerships over 5 years. Orange: original partnerships in 2017. Blue: Newly established partners through 2021. Yellow: No official partnerships but collaborations within the MYTOX-SOUTH® framework through conferences, webinars, and student exchange.
Goals: build human capacity, bridge the research gap, and create a sustainable network
MYTOX-SOUTH® is a partnership to improve food security and food safety through global mycotoxin contamination mitigation by building human capacity, bridging the gap between research and other actors, and creating a sustainable global network.
_ Building human capacity
MYTOX-SOUTH® offers training, student/staff exchange scholarships and programs, and (joint) PhDs that contribute to increased capacity among partners in the South. Through these activities, researchers identify new mycotoxin risk reduction research areas; transfer detection technique knowledge, including human biomarkers of exposure analysis; improve pre- and post-harvest practices by using mycotoxin binders, biological control agents, and other intervention techn
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