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Vol. 35 No. 2
March-April 2013

Conference Call | Reports from recent conferences and symposia 
See also www.iupac.org/indexes/Conferences

WMFmeetsIUPAC

Under the intriguing name WMFmeetsIUPAC, a large international conference was organized in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, 5–9 November 2012. The unique conference was a merger of the 7th Conference of the World Mycotoxin Forum and the XIIIth IUPAC International Symposium on Mycotoxins and Phycotoxins. Mycotoxins and phycotoxins are classes of natural toxins, produced by fungi and algae respectively, that are of significant concern to the health of humans and animals. Whereas exposure is largely caused by the ingestion of toxin-contaminated food and feed, other routes (inhalation, dermal contact) cannot be neglected.

Panel discussion, moderated by Rudolf Krska and Hans van Egmond.

The IUPAC symposia on Mycotoxins and Phycotoxins has existed since 1972. They were held for the first time approximately a decade after the discovery of mycotoxins. Traditionally, the IUPAC symposia, which had a strong focus on (applied) chemistry and were held at intervals of three to four years all over the world, attracted in particular attendees from academia, research institutes, and government agencies. The World Mycotoxin Forum (WMF) is a younger series of conferences somewhat smaller in size than the IUPAC symposia. They have been organized since 2001 by Bastiaanse Communication, usually in the Netherlands, once every two years. WMF conferences put more emphasis on issues such as prevention and control, whereas practical solutions for the food and feed industry got a more prominent place in the conference programs compared with IUPAC symposia.

The conference WMFmeetsIUPAC aimed to increase awareness of human and animal health risks due to natural toxicant contamination in agricultural commodities and seafood, and of potential risk-management options, technologies, and strategies for minimizing contamination. The event focused on mycotoxins, phycotoxins, and plant toxins. The latter group of toxins was included in the scope of the conference because it is of increasing concern to the health of both humans and animals. The conference attracted approximately 450 attendees, representing 42 countries. With the support of authoritative scientific and advisory committees, a program was built which included more than 100 invited lectures and oral contributions in 2 plenary meetings and 12 parallel sessions; over 200 posters; various workshops and satellite meetings; spotlight presentations, case studies, and industry updates; and an instrument/manufacturers exhibition.

Following the introductory presentations on the first day of the conference, four keynote speakers shared their views on the challenges for the coming years in the areas of mycotoxins, phycotoxins, and plant toxins. This plenary session was rounded off by a panel discussion in which the keynote speakers were complemented with three leading representatives from a research institute, a university, and the European Commission. A summary of the first day’s conclusions:

  • Rare mycotoxicoses have shown that we need to expect the unexpected, symbolized with “black swans.”
  • More research is needed on the synergistic adverse effects of mycotoxins, and the influence of external weather conditions on their formation.
  • Modern instrumental analytical methods for phycotoxins offer superior performance over (official) animal tests.
  • Plant toxins cause major economic losses to the livestock industry, and should be given more attention.

A reception in Rotterdam’s elegant Town Hall hosted by the city of Rotterdam and the vice mayor Mrs. Kriens, completed the day.

On the second day of the conference, several parallel sessions were held on subjects ranging from “Emerging Toxins and New Occurrence Data,” “Human and Animal Health Implications,” “Prevention and Reduction” through to “Analytical Solutions in the Spotlight.” During the latter session many commercial companies were given the opportunity to display their products in a nutshell. From the second day’s presentations and discussions the following general statements could be derived:

  • Risk assessment of mycotoxins needs to include scenarios based on mechanisms of action and on exposure to multiple contaminants.
  • Biomarkers of exposure and effect advance our understanding of health effects of mycotoxins.
  • Toxicological data are needed to clarify health effects of “masked mycotoxins.”
  • Successful biocontrol of aflatoxins is a reality in developing countries.
The instrument/manufacturers exhibition area.

The third conference day involved five parallel sessions, which included the ever popular session “Sampling and Novel Analytical Tools” and the session “Novel Integrated Strategies for Worldwide Reduction,” where outcomes of the Large Collaborative EU-project MycoRed were disseminated. Sessions on “Factors Affecting Toxin Formation in the Environment,” “Airborne Exposure to Mycotoxins in Indoor and Occupational Settings,” and “Contemporary Issues on Phycotoxins” attracted many attendees as well. This day was rounded off with a boat trip through Rotterdam’s harbor followed by a magnificent conference dinner in the underwater world of the Rotterdam Zoo. Scientifically, the third day’s conclusions included the following:

  • MycoRed created massive interaction in mycotoxin research at a global level.
  • Biosensors have a great potential in view of the rapid developments in nanomaterials and recombinant antibodies.
  • Weather conditions form a crucial factor for mycotoxin formation, hence preventive actions should be based on these.
  • There is an increased need for reference materials and toxicological data for phycotoxins.
  • In damp buildings a great variety of microbial secondary metabolites can be found.

Three parallel sessions on the fourth day included topics such as “Monitoring and Quality Assurance” and “Inexpensive Detection for Control of Exposure.” These sessions focused on the accomplishments of the EU-Network of Excellence MoniQA and the Large Collaborative EU-project CONffIDENCE. Modern ‘omics were the subject of attention in the parallel session “Mycotoxin Management: The Genomic Approach.” Together with the final plenary session “Facing the Future” where the focus was tuned towards several exciting international challenges and developments, the sessions on this last day of the conference led to the following conclusions:

  • Mycotoxins remain a challenge for industry, authorities, and research.
  • MoniQA and CONffIDENCE deliverables show that EU-funding of strong scientific networks leads to tangible output and is most rewarding.
  • Genomics is an ideal tool to understand plant-fungi interactions.
  • For comprehensive risk management of natural toxins several knowledge gaps are still to be addressed.
  • More research is needed to overcome these gaps which is of interest to human and animal health worldwide!

The last day also included the traditional ceremony of the IUPAC Best Poster Award. The winning poster “Neurotoxicity of T-2 and HT-2 toxin? New Experimental Hints for an Influence on the Blood Brain Barrier in Vitro” was prepared and presented by Maria Weidner, Institute of Food Chemistry, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Germany.

At the close of the conference, several upcoming international conferences of relevance to the audience were announced. Despite the significant progress made in various fields of research and their practical applications, issues associated with mycotoxins, phycotoxins, and plant toxins are expected to stay with us for a long time, which warrants continuous concern and joint, multidisciplinary efforts to combat and control the problems. This has also led the organizers of the Rotterdam conference to disclose their plans to organize a next WMFmeetsIUPAC conference in Asia in late 2016.

A post-conference activity was the excursion “Sampling and Import Control,” a practical workshop on import control in the Port of Rotterdam. Participants were able to visit a warehouse and to see the sampling of a consignment of nuts. In addition they visited the Dutch Customs Office.

Hans van Egmond <hans.vanegmond@wur.nl> is a senior scientist at the RIKILT Institute of Food Safety, Wageningen University and Research Centre, Wageningen, the Netherlands. Rudolf Krska is head of the Department for Agrobiotechnology in Tulln (IFA-Tulln), which is part of BOKU University, Vienna, Austria.

 

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