These organisms can treat diseases and pests, decontaminate soils and seas, and generate clean fuels.
Paul Stamets is a specialist in fungi (mycologist) recognized throughout the world for his research work on the use of these living beings. He tells that there are a million and a half species of fungi and that they were the first organisms to colonize the earth 1,300 million years ago.
Mushrooms are present in humus production, in cooking, in medicine, and even in hallucinogenic substances. But Stamets affirms that they can save the world, curing diseases like smallpox, flu or tuberculosis; could prevent cancer and allergies.
Fungi in agriculture
The use of fungi could also occur in agriculture, in the production of pesticides. Stamets, states that the fungusMetarhizium anisopliae and others of its kind, whose entomopathogenic effects (capable of killing insects) were known for a long time, couldhelp control up to 200,000 species of insects and invertebrates that are harmful to agriculture or to the integrity of our buildings without damaging the environment.
The mycologist discovered that manipulating the fungi so that they did not emit spores, which repelled insects, had devastating results for the termites and ants that invaded his home and that died when ingesting the mycelium, the filaments that constitute the vegetative part of the fungus , whatreproduces inside generating lethal substances for the host. The bodies of dead insects colonized by the fungus also become emitters of spores that prevent the arrival of new invasions.
It is not toxic to humans, pollinators, fish, birds, or any other non-target animals (harmful insects).
This discovery is of vital importance at crucial moments on the planet where for example 700 species of American bees are on the list of endangered species.
This technology has the potential to revolutionize agriculture and the way of producing food, much healthier for the environment and people.
Here is his research in English: http://www.beyondpesticides.org/assets/media/documents/infoservices/pesticidesandyou/Winter06-07/fungi.pdf
Mushrooms as fuels
Its use could reachthe manufacture of clean and sustainable biofuels and also help to regenerate highly polluted environments by metabolizing hydrocarbons. And you can make packaging that later helps to reforest degraded land.
A strain of oyster mushrooms, of the speciesPleurotus ostreatus, which Stamets helped to develop has shown tolerance to salt water - which would allow its use at sea - and achievedreduce soil hydrocarbon contamination from 10,000 parts per million to 200 in just four months. And Stamets and his research colleagues found that the mycelium of this fungus mixed with organic matter increased its effectiveness in the decontamination of soils that had suffered oil spills.
And there are other applications of these beings that could be enormously beneficial to slow down the planetary environmental deterioration caused by humans: other fungi, such asMycena alkaline, they canbreak down polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), substances widely used for decades in industry that have high toxicity and can cause cancer. And some mycelia allowget ethanol from cellulose, providing a clean and renewable fuel for the automotive industry that Stamets and its partners have dubbed Econol.
Mushrooms and medicine
On the other hand, other species also studied by the North American mycologist have great curative properties. A huge example of this was almost a century ago the discovery of penicillin, a revolutionary antibiotic based on the fungusPenicillium rubens, by Alexander Fleming, in what was one of the greatest advances in medicine in history.
In this research three varieties of the fungusFomitopsis officinalis, known by the common name of agarikon, a bulbous specimen that colonizes trunks in the humid forests of the American Northwest - it also lived in Europe but has disappeared from this continent -, have demonstrated their ability tofight the smallpox virus, and three others have shown promise to be useful against different types of flu, including avian, or tuberculosis. And they dowithout causing apparent toxicity.
The discoveries of Stamets, which has created a mushroom sales company called Fungi Perfecti (Perfect Mushrooms), have led him to be invited several times to the TED Conferences, acronym for Technology, Entertainment, Design, a non-profit organization dedicated topromote "ideas worth spreading" in the fields of science, art and design, politics, education, culture, business, global affairs, technology and development and entertainment. The video has exceeded 3.4 million visits on the internet. Perhaps in the end it will be an alternative to polluting multinationals like Bayer-Monsanto and save the world with fungi.
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