Article about Paul Stamets from the Montana Standard newspaper.
The article is very good and touchs on the inspiration that Paul can create.
Can mushrooms save the world?
By Roberta Stauffer, Standard opinion page editor – 03/16/2009
Paul Stamets speaks for the fungi family, much as Jane Goodall speaks for the chimps and the Lorax speaks for the trees.
I caught an interview with him on Montana Public Radio’s New Dimensions program a few months back. The mushrooms couldn’t have picked a better spokesperson (if they could pick, that is).
And to hear Stamets talk, maybe they did pick him, for they’re capable of spectacular feats.
Did you know, for example, that fungi discovered in the aftermath of Chernobyl were found to take in radiation and turn it into energy much like green plants convert light energy for their own use through photosynthesis?
And did you know mushrooms can break down nasty by-products of industrial processing? “Mycoremediation,” Stamets calls it, and it works on such pollutants as dioxins, PCBs, petroleum waste and nerve gas toxins. Think of them as “little Pac-men that go around gobbling up toxic molecules,” he said during the Monday night radio show.
Mushrooms themselves aren’t the Pac-men, but rather their “parents,” the mycelium. In a recent Mother Earth News article, Stamets describes mycelium as a “network of fungal cells” that pretty much permeates the Earth. Mushrooms are the fruits of this complex network.
Stamets’ latest book is called “Mycelium Running: How mushrooms can help save the world,” but he’s worried that much of this intricate network may be wiped out before we humans have a chance to discover even a fraction of what it has to offer. He lives in Washington and is particularly concerned over disappearance of species in old growth rainforests of the Pacific Northwest.
Besides environmental cleanup benefits, mushrooms hold promise as medicines. Stamets has discovered antiviral and antibacterial properties in fungi in his lab and thinks they could potentially treat inflictions such as bird flu, HIV, cancer and smallpox.
Stamets’ list of possible applications goes on: mushrooms for water filtration, mushroom-based “myconol” fuel for automobiles, eating mushrooms to stay healthy, spiritual properties of mushrooms.
He decries “myco-phobic” cultures such as the English who came up with the distasteful “toadstool” nickname and celebrates “myco-phyllic” societies like those in Asia and Russia that recognize the rejuvenating role of the humble mushroom.
And of course there’s a Butte connection: a local company owes its very existence to a fungi-based product that it sells it far and wide. The company started out years ago as Mycotech, then it was sold and the name changed to Emerald BioAgriculture. Now it’s called Laverlam International Corp.
Located in the industrial park south of Butte, the company cultivates a fungus called Beauveria bassiana and processes it into a natural insecticide.
Gary Chatriand, vice president of manufacturing, said the Butte operation employs eight people, and they ship their products all around the world.
“Seventy percent of our sales are international,” Chatriand said.
I was thrilled to learn the company was still up and running. Light industry like this is just what Butte needs.
And it sounds like more respect for and research into mushrooms is just what the world needs now — along with “love sweet love” of course.
— Roberta (Bobbi) Stauffer is The Standard’s opinion page editor. She may be reached at 496-5514 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To download Stamets’ radio show, go to www.newdimensions.org/program.php?id3274. To find out all about his work, visit www.fungi.com. A link to the Mother Earth News article is on that site as well.