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BIOTECH BITS

A new strategy for combating the aflatoxin-causing fungus Aspergillus flavus has been launched in Nigeria by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the project is developing a biocontrol technology that introduces non-toxic fungus strains in the affected fields to out-compete and reduce the population of the toxic strains. Aflatoxin contamination in Nigeria and Kenya has reached a record high, with nearly 150 deaths since 2004 among people who ate contaminated corn. Millions of bags of contaminated corn have been taking up storage space, and their disposal has become a problem. "This project will take our biocontrol product, commercialize it, and make it available to farmers," says Paula Bramel, IITA deputy director general.

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