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Aflatoxin Bio-control Lab of its own kind in Pakistan established at NARC, Islamabad: Chairman PARC

Safer Food and Disease Free Crops are the targets to ensure Food Security
Dr. Muhammad Azeem Khan, Chairman PARC

(Islamabad 14th January 2020)....... Aflatoxin is a serious threat to food security by infecting many of Pakistan’s agricultural products, including cereal grains, chilies, dry fruits and nuts, and milk. It is produced by a poisonous fungus. The fungus can infect crops before and after harvest as well as infect animal products if infected feeds are given to livestock. To address this problem, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), introduced its biological control technology and its Pakistani subsidiary is Rafhan Maize. Technical support is being provided by CABI and the National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC) in Pakistan.

With Rafhan Maize, USDA has developed a bio-control product, called AflaPak, formulated specifically to reduce aflatoxin in maize grown in Pakistan. AflaPak uses safe non-aflatoxin producing strains of the fungus (Aspergillus flavus) to outcompete the deadlier aflatoxin producing strains. Farmers apply AflaPak™ to their plants during the flowering stage and before the toxic fungus strains can grow and colonize the maize.

The Aflatoxin Control Laboratory at Crop Diseases Research Institute (CDRI), NARC has been established in collaboration with CBI financed by USDA. Inauguration Ceremony of Aflatoxin Lab was held at CDRI, NARC and Dr. Muhammad Azeem Khan, Chairman, PARC was the Chief Guest. Verification of atoxigenic strain-based product (AlfaPak) for mitigating aflatoxin in Maize and Development of atoxigenic based products for mitigating aflatoxin in Chilies and Groundnut are the objectives of the lab.

While Addressing to the inaugural session of the Lab, Dr. Muhammad Azeem Khan said that Aflatoxin Control Laboratory is first of its own kind in Pakistan to mitigate aflatoxin in Maize and as a centre of excellence for mitigating the alflatoxin menace in the country this will open new windows for other crops like chillies, groundnut and dried fruits. The Chairman expressed that safer food and disease free crops are the targets to ensure food security in the Country. Aflatoxin is contaminating crops produced in Pakistan. The Chairman further added that Pakistan is an agriculture based economy and horticulture is an important industry of this sector. Prevalence of aflatoxins in fresh produce commodities at the time of consumption is one of the growing food safety concerns. Aflatoxins are found in fresh produce commodities grown in Pakistan. There remains a need to conduct a supply chain focused comprehensive research study on assessment of aflatoxins in the major fresh produce commodities of Pakistan.

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