Mycotoxins and the Economy

by Ethan Dolby, Economics major

Plant diseases can have a large impact on the world from an economic stand point. The impact stems from a variety of different means. First and foremost, plant diseases can lead to a dramatic decrease in crop yields. Farmers all across the world can spend thousands of dollars cultivating crops only to have a large portion of them be discarded. These unusable crops lead to large deficits and food shortages. In order to prevent yield loss due to disease, large sums of money need to be spent on research and implementation. This could range from pesticides to even genetic engineering.

Being an economic major, I wanted to do some research on the plant disease that is causing some of the largest economic losses throughout the country. Although there is some debate on the issue, Mycotoxins are touted as one of the most devastating. Mycotoxins are chemicals that are produced by fungi living on organic matter. These chemicals can be incredibly harmful to the health of humans and animals. In some cases, mycotoxins directly lead to death.

Mycotoxins have impact on several important crops such as corn, wheat, nuts and coffee. According to The Food and Agriculture Organization, nearly twenty five percent of the world’s crops are affected every single year. Annual food losses thanks to mycotoxins reaches close to one billon metric tons. There are varying reports but in terms of money, mycotoxins cost the United States anywhere from one to five billion dollars each year depending on whether or not it is an outbreak year. To put the issue into more perspective, these reports do not include the economic cost associated with human and animal health. This is largely due to the complexity of calculating these factors.

Although several separate toxins fall under the umbrella of Mycotoxins it is astonishing to think of the economic impact of plant diseases. For instance, mycotoxins alone cost billions and there are thousands of other plant diseases. Some may not have a large impact on the economy, perhaps only a million dollars annually or so but when combined, the numbers are staggering.


Growing up spelunking, hiking and camping I developed a love for nature and science. Driving a hybrid car and conscientious resource management is how I make sure I am doing my part to help the environment. I initially went to Ohio State to become either a chemical or environmental engineer. Through my classwork however I discovered a love for economics. I love getting the chance to combine two of my passions.


David G. Schmale III. “Mycotoxins in Crops: A Threat to Human and Domestic Animal Health.”APSnet. N.p., 2009. Web. 03 June 2017.

This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

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