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Plant pathology student authors policy brief on mycotoxin threat in India

-Magdalen Lindeberg

Anthony Wenndt

Mycotoxins represent a significant threat to human health owing to their role in disease and adverse impacts on child growth and development. While most mycotoxin research has focused on sub-Saharan Africa, less attention has been given to India.  Anthony Wenndt, PhD student in  Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology with SIPS faculty Rebecca Nelson, is spending a year in India to assess the extent and sources of mycotoxin contamination in India’s diverse food system.

Wenndt, a TCi Scholar since 2015, is funded by the Tata Cornell Institute’s Technical Assistance and Research for Indian Nutrition and Agriculture (TARINA) Consortium. Launched in December 2015 with funding from the Gates Foundation, TARINA aims to bring together the collective expertise of policy-focused academics and impact-focused non-governmental organizations.

Food vendors at a marketplace in Mahabubnagar District, Telangana. Photo: Anthony Wenndt

Wenndt’s research focuses on empowering smallholders by linking the biology of plant disease to the global dialogue around food security and international development. More specifically, he is interested in identifying biological and environmental factors that influence accumulation of harmful mycotoxins and finding ways to assess and mitigate their presence throughout the food value chain.

In the recent TCI-TARINA policy brief, “Addressing Mycotoxin Exposure across Village Food Systems in Rural India” Wenndt summarizes his findings on the extent of contamination in various food sources and the role of storage practices as a risk determinant. The report concludes with a list of policy recommendations focused on expanded monitering, enhancing awareness of food quality standards, promoting improved storage, and leveraging local knowledge. Nelson praised the collaborative network that Wenndt has established with TARINA, ICRISAT, and local organizations in India as well as his connections with faculty in Cornell’s Department of Nutrition.

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