Groundnut, or peanut, is a major food staple and excellent protein source in many parts of the world. However, since the nut itself develops in soil, it is prone to fungal infection with Aspergillus flavus, the species that produces aflatoxin. Aflatoxins are some of the most potent naturally-produced carcinogens and are thought to be responsible for liver cancer worldwide. In the Developing World fungal infection and toxin production are a problem on fresh and stored food products. Fungicides and other chemical controls are not readily available. Dr. Dilip Shah from the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center worked with a team of researchers to devise a multi-faceted plan to protect groundnut from fungal infections. In this week’s podcast he describes two approaches, of how genetic engineering can be used to control the fungus, or its production of the toxin.
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