Radically different attitudes exist culturally, especially between the East and the West, in regard to fungi. In English-speaking countries, which have been called "mycophobic" (fungi avoiding), mushrooms and molds have traditionally been considered inedible, poisonous, or evil. (Consider the term toadstool, with its dim connotations of evil and witchcraft.) The natural diversity of fungi has been much better appreciated, in general, by some non-English-speaking cultures. Although fungi can produce mycotoxins and disease, and while it can be fatal to eat misidentified fungi—no doubt the original scientific impetus behind cultural prohibitions and superstitions—fungi are also of great commercial and aesthetic benefit. They ferment the alcohol in wine, beer, and champagne; make flour rise in bread, giving it its texture; ripen thenay, vendome, camembert, brie, and many other cheeses; and scavenge nutrients that they then deliver through the roots to plants. Even this paper, a wood product, is made possible by fungi associated in the roots of trees. Indeed, without fungi, neither forests nor life on land as we know it could have evolved.
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