Nammex V. Host Defense: What Does The Word Mushroom Mean?

Or Jeff v. Paul

Something big just happened in the medicinal mushroom space. Normally I would save this kind of story for The Myco Files but I can’t wait! I'm going to simplify this a bit for our social media attention spans.

Nammex is the western worlds largest middle man for medicinal mushrooms, AKA North American Reishi LTD, led by Jeff Chilton and retail brand company called Real Mushrooms. They have done wonders for best practices, GMP and organic cultivation and production in China, true pioneers. 

Nammex petitioned the FDA to enforce language used on mushroom products. This is a not so subtle jab at one time friend and long time rival: Host Defense Mushrooms, Paul Stamets supplement company. Host Defense uses myceliated grain and calls their products "mushroom" products. Paul Stamets has done wonders for the American mushroom culture as a foundational influencer and inspiration to many new school mycologists. 

Chilton and Nammex argue you can’t call mycelium based products “mushrooms.” Chilton is getting the FDA involved to enforce their rules from 1976, that says you have to label what is actually in the product.

Stamets’s Host Defense does clearly say on the label: “Mycelium/fermented brown rice biomass.” However,  the brand continues to use the word mushrooms to describe their products. They even trade marked their name containing the word “mushrooms.”

So is Jeff trying to get Paul to change his company's name?

Meanwhile Stamets and crew publish an open letter to defend them selves and bring this debate to the court of public opinion. Their main argument is that the word mushroom describes the entire organism. They claim mushrooms are made of hyphae which are mycelium so calling a mycelium product, a mushroom product is true and OK.

But this argument seems to ignore that the mushroom is the spore producing fruiting body of the organism. Any mycologist will tell you that the mycelium transforms to create something that can produce spores. Is it still mycelium at that point?

It seems to me that Stamets is trying to redefine what the word mushroom means and with his 948 thousand followers on Instagram, he might just pull it off. After all he is damn charismatic.

To make this all more interesting, Paul and Jeff used to be friends, or at least they might have been when the wrote and published a book together in 1983 called the “The Mushroom Cultivator. Which is another story to be told at another time. As an aside, Stamets uses a graphic from the book that illustrates the life cycle of the mycelium, to support his argument! Well played.

Clearly they had some kind of falling out, sorry about that guys. I’m sure its sucks.

You both have brought this debate to the public so now I have to weigh in. Over the years they have both poopoo’d each others approach to doing business in the medicinal mushroom space, and up until now in mostly subtle ways.

But the gloves are off and the name calling has begun, I am very curious to see how this plays out.  I think you can convince your adoring followers Paul, but trying to convince other mycologists that mycelium is the same thing as the spore producing fruit body will be a tough sell. I'm all ears.

There is more to this debate than just trying to define the word mushroom.  The timing of this seems like no coincidence because The Mushroom Summit is happening in Denver, right now….damn I wish I was there to participate in the debate!

And to both Jeff and Paul, you are competing for market share in a market that is vast and growing there is room for everyone to flourish! For most Americans when you mention the word mushrooms they think you are talking about magic mushrooms, so we have a long way to go culturally.

Maybe it’s time to be mutualistic and support each other as we collectively create a healthy mushroom culture in the united states. With all due respect to both of you and your significant contributions to the space: When you do stuff like this it makes you sound like too old men bickering over some decades old argument that only you two know the truth about.





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