Newsroom  Press releases  2002

13) Poisoned groundnut - handle with care, 6 March, 2002

A group of poisonous fungi could become a severe threat to India's groundnut industry unless appropriate steps are taken. This was the view of experts attending an international conference on aflatoxins infection in groundnuts, being held at ICRISAT, Hyderabad.

Groundnut plants are attacked by Aspergillus fungi, which later produce toxic compounds known as aflatoxins. Aflatoxins are carcinogens, associated with liver cancer and possibly other diseases. They affect both beings and animals. Cattle can fall severely ill, or even die, if the consume infected groundnut. A lactating mother is at risk, not only of falling ill herself, but also of passing the poison to her baby, through breast milk.

How can small-scale farmers detect and control aflatoxin contamination at a reasonable cost? This is discussed intensively by various institutions in India and abroad: ICRISAT, Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University, University of Reading, UK, University of Belfast, National Research Center for Groundnut, Junagadh, AME, based in Bangalore, Andhra Pradesh Rural Reconstruct Mission, STAAD, Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences, Veterinary Biological Research Institute, the Directorate of Oilseeds Development and the private sector-poultry industry. But the most important participants were farmers themselves, who added their perspective on the effectiveness (and cost-effectiveness) of various control methods. This interaction gave farmers a better understanding of the aflatoxin problem. while scientists got the opportunity to discuss their products with the end-users (farmers).

Unfortunately, as ICRISAT plant pathologist Dr Farid Waliyar points out, “Farmers do not receive a price premium for aflatoxin-free groundnuts, so there are no real financial incentives for them to spend their scare resources on aflatoxin.

by ICRISAT. All rights reserved.