|MadSci Network: General Biology|
> Basically, I want to know if we could survive without molds, or if they > actually help us live.Molds just seem like pests to me. Good question! Well, they certainly aren't ALL pests, and some can actually help us. Could we survive without them? No, they are really a critical part of the ecosystem. First let me give you a few examples of the helpful ones I am most familiar with as a food microbiologist. Molds and yeasts are classified as "Fungi". Mushrooms (including the poisonous kind and the kind you find on pizza) are also classified as fungi. So one way they help us is by being food. We eat other fungi besides mushrooms too. Yeast are used to make beer and wine. Yeast also make bread rise. Some molds are also used to make foods... bleu cheese is one example. There are also quite a few asian foods that are made using molds. Examples include: Miso, Ontjom, Tempeh and soy sauce! Molds help us in other very important ways too. Many antibiotics are made by molds. Penicillin is the classic example. Another one called Streptomycin was discovered here at Rutgers University. Finally, molds are a very important part of the ecosystem. When a tree dies in a forest, molds play a very important role in turning that tree back into soil so that it can be used for food to grow more trees. I studied one such mold called Trichoderma reesei when I was working on my Ph.D. degree. We used this mold to make food processing waste into useful chemicals! So, molds might be pests some of the time, but they can also be very helpful!
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