Positive Uses for Fungi

Positive Uses for Fungi

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When we think of fungi, yeast and mold are likely the first to come to mind, often with negative connotations. But fungi play important roles in many areas of our lives, including many positive uses.

Fungi are necessary for many of our favorite foods and beverages. Mushrooms are the obvious example, but yeast is required to produce fermented products such as beer, wine, yogurt, and cheese.

When fungi grow on plants, it’s not always damaging. Rather, certain fungal infections can be quite helpful! There is a black, powdery mold that affects corn and another that grows on wheat. Both of these crops end up with higher carbohydrate and phosphorous content, making them more nutritious. Other fungi naturally kill weeds and can prevent the need for applying synthetic pesticides that may have harmful effects on human health.

Several common antibiotics are derived from fungi, including penicillin and cephalosporin. These drugs work to kill Gram-positive bacteria such as those that most commonly cause Staph infections.

Fungi can also be used to clean up our environment. Petroleum spills and hazardous wastes can be remediated using a fungi that removes them from contaminated soil. Another fungi known as white rot helps to degrade toxic pesticides and chemicals. And the same fungus used in the production of penicillin can also recover heavy metals from wastewater, including mercury and lead.

So the next time you see mold on old food or clean the mildew from your shower, remember that not all fungi are bad! Some make delicious foods and drinks while others save our lives and the Earth.

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