Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: May 27, 2009
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: Mycotoxins are toxic compounds produce by fungi (molds). Mycotoxins are a major problem throughout the world. Grains and foods can become infected with these fungi which produce mycotoxins and when these commodities are fed to animals or consumed by humans pose a significant threat to both animal and human health. Mycotoxins are extremely toxic and one mycotoxin, aflatoxin, is the most potent naturally occurring carcinogen known to man. Due to the extreme toxicity and carcinogenic potential of mycotoxins, their levels in animal feeds and human foods are regulated by essentially every country in the world. Corn produced in Iraq is harvested in November, which is a rainy time of the year. Generally the corn is dried by spreading it on the ground. As the corn sits in the rain, or if the temperature is low and humidity is high, the corn will very quickly become moldy and mycotoxin contaminated. Even if the weather is conducive to drying the corn, this process for drying corn is slow, which allows for molds to grow and contaminate the commodity with mycotoxins. In addition, the corn surface in contact with the ground will not dry, even in the best of conditions, before mycotoxin contamination will occur. It is important to the stability and economic viability of the grain farmers in Iraq that the animal industry, primarily the poultry industry in Iraq, provides a market for the grains grown in Iraq. However, the poultry industry in Iraq cannot depend on the quality of the locally grown corn, and unless a way can be found to improve the handling of corn, the poultry industry will not be able to consistently sustain a viable industry. If any of the locally grown corn enters the human food system it would represent a significant public health concern. Recommendation: It is important to the economic viability of corn farmers in Iraq that they have a market for their corn, which is principally the poultry industry in Iraq, and it is critical to the poultry industry to be able to obtain locally grown corn that is mycotoxin free. A way must be found to dry the corn as soon after harvest as possible. Corn should be dried to at least 15% moisture, and to prevent mycotoxin contamination it should be dried to 12 or 13%. On-farm corn drying facilities would be the preferred approach due to the ability to immediately dry the corn after harvesting. There are a number of commercial systems for on-farm drying that are based either on ventilated bins or heated and ventilated bins. However, it takes some capital investment in these systems and the energy that they use is an additional expense. Corn farmers in Iraq, especially small farms, may not have the capital to invest in these drying systems, and therefore this may not be a practical recommendation. The Government or Private Sector could help with credit and loans to these farmers for this purpose but the economics of this approach again may not be practical. If it is not feasible to work towards having on-farm corn drying facilities an alternative would be to build regional grain elevators with corn drying facilities. These facilities could be government or private sector owned and located such that harvested corn could be delivered to the facilities within 48 hours or so after harvest. These facilities might be built and operated by the poultry industry in Iraq who have a vested interest in their ability to have a reliable source of corn. This may be the most practical solution because there would be more uniformity in the quality of the corn with a few facilities versus the variability that would occur with many farms. The problem with this approach is insuring that the corn is delivered to these facilities very quickly after it is harvested. Another alternative, that is far less acceptable, is for the Iraqi poultry industry to import corn that would be used to blend with locally produced corn to reduce the levels of mycotoxins. I personally do not support this approach due to the high probability that the locally produced corn would be mycotoxin contaminated and the uncertainty and variability of the mycotoxin contamination of locally grown corn would make it difficult to consistently blend to limit the effects of mycotoxins on the poultry industry. It is my opinion that the Iraqi poultry industry cannot become a viable industry until they can depend on a quality mycotoxin-free corn supply. There is also a critical need to educate the Iraqi corn producers on the importance of drying their corn as fast and as efficiently as possible after it is harvested.