oyster  mushrooms via Valentyn Volkov

All Natural, Mushroom-Based Pesticide Could Revolutionize Agriculture

 
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by Aaron Kase

on May 14, 2015

Could an insecticide made from mushrooms compete with commercial pesticides applied to crops the world over?

Fungus expert Paul Stamets thinks so, with a product he calls SMART pesticides. They are made from natural fungi, which kill insects and protect crops without creating toxic residue and runoff. If adopted, the mushroom pesticides would be a breath of fresh air in our increasingly toxic environment.

Pesticides can be necessary for large-scale food production, but they also have harmful effects on the natural world as well as on human health. Many of the chemicals used in commercial pesticides, like  ammonia, arsenic, benzene, chlorine, dioxins, formaldehyde and glyphosate are dangerous to people even in small doses, and they show up in human bodies after consumption of conventionally-grown food.

Widespread pesticide use is also one possible culprit for the massive decline in bee populations over the last decade, as well as a persistent cause of ground and fresh water pollution.

Paul Stamets  Via: anaka Menehune

Paul Stamets
Via: Anaka Menehune

Stamets, the groundbreaking mycologist famous for propagating a message on how mushrooms can save the world, first developed his innovative pesticide when he observed that harmful insects like carpenter ants and termites would avoid fungus spores. He then developed a modified form of fungus that didn’t produce spores, which the insects devour and share with their comrades before being killed by its entomopathogenic, or insect-killing properties.

The product is effective on 200,000 different insect species, and it’s self-perpetuating as well — after the fungus kills the ant, termite or other pest, it sprouts a mushroom from its body and distributes spores that warn other insects to stay away from the area.

Stamets first patented his all-natural insecticide in 2001, noting that: “The matrix of preconidial fungi can optionally be dried, freeze-dried, cooled and/or pelletized and packaged and reactivated for use as an effective insect attractant and/or biopesticide.” He refiled in 2003, and was finally granted his patent in 2006.

The mycologist claims that pesticide industry executives told him that his invention was the “most disruptive technology that they have ever witnessed.” Unfortunately, it still hasn’t gained much attention in the media or commercial agriculture realm. It’s not hard to see why. The natural pesticide is easy and inexpensive to produce, which means that there isn’t a lot of profit in it, while industry giants like Monsanto currently make mega-bucks from toxic pest-control strategies. Executives are not likely to give up their grip on all that money without a struggle.

And that means that we are the ones who bear the consequences. California reported 7,600 pesticide poisoning cases between 2002 and 2008, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. A 1993 report by the National Academies determined that “depending on dose, some pesticides can cause a range of adverse effects on human health, including cancer, acute and chronic injury to the nervous system, lung damage, reproductive dysfunction, and possibly dysfunction of the endocrine and immune systems.”

It’s a familiar story. Big companies profit, and human beings pay the price. A shift to more natural and organic pest-control strategies would benefit humans, animals and plants alike, and miraculous mushroom pesticides are a good place to start.