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"Food-borne illness frequently grabs headlines: tomatoes, peanut butter and, most recently, pistachios have all made people sick from salmonella and caused headaches for grocers across the United States.

Now, another food illness of sorts is popping up on the international radar screen -- only this one makes the food itself ill. Well, one of the plants that turns into much of our food, in any case. Scientists from 40 countries on six continents are fighting a virulent form of an old wheat disease that some fear could threaten 90 percent of the world's wheat crop. They aim to fight the fungus on the genetic level, hoping to prevent it from spreading to North America by replacing much of the world's wheat varieties with tougher plants.

At a conference in Mexico earlier this month, scientists confirmed that a newly emerged wheat rust strain known as Ug99 is now in most of eastern Africa and is marching toward South Asia, a region that produces 19 percent of the world's wheat. The wind-borne fungus has already devastated farms in Kenya, where some farmers have reported losses up to 80 percent. "

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