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What is EM? Print E-mail
Can "EM" be a New Miracle Treatment for Old Problems?

EM is shorthand for a powerful and beneficial metabiotic known as Effective Microorganisms, where each organism creates favorable conditions for the growth of the others and creates an antioxidative microbial culture.

"EM Technology" is an as yet scientifically unconfirmed method of improving soil quality and plant growth using a mixture of microorganisms consisting mainly of lactic acid bacteria, purple bacteria, and yeasts which co-exist for the benefit of whichever environment they are introduced. It typically includes:

  • Lactic acid bacteria: Lactobacillus plantarum; L. Casei; Streptococcus Lactis.
  • Photosynthetic bacteria: Rhodopseudomonas Palustris; Rhodobacter Sphaeroides.
  • Yeast: Saccharomyces Cerevisiae; Candida Utilis
  • Actinomycetes: Streptomyces Albus; S. Griseus.
  • Fermenting fungi: Aspergillus oryzae; Mucor Hiemalis.

The concept of 'Effective Microorganisms' was developed by Japanese agronomist Teruo Higa, from the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa who reported in the 1970s that a combination of approximately 80 different microorganisms is capable of positively influencing decomposing organic matter such that it reverts into a 'life promoting' process. Higa invokes a 'dominance principle' to explain the effects of his 'effective microorganisms'. He claims that there exist three groups of microorganisms: 'positive microorganisms' (regeneration), 'negative microorganisms' (decomposition, degeneration), 'opportunist microorganisms'. In every medium (soil, water, air, the human intestine), the ratio of 'positive' and 'negative' microorganisms is critical, since the opportunist microorganisms follow the trend to regeneration or degeneration.

Therefore, Higa believes that it is possible to positively influence the given media by supplementing positive microorganisms. Dr. Higa eventually wrote about EM and it's various uses in his book "An Earth Saving Revolution", which was followed a few years later by a second volume entitled "An Earth Saving Revolution II". He has since written additional books, including one on EM-treated salt.

EM is now used worldwide in a number of different areas, particularly in sustainable agriculture and farm waste management, toxic waste remediation, and - more recently - human and animal health, cleaning and protecting building materials.

On the Nicoya Peninsula, some villages already use EM to treat black water. Montezuma and Santa Teresa started a program to encourage tourist businesses to use EM in their septic tanks to treat "bad" bacteria by breeding "good" bacteria. This could help to clean up rivers, streams and groundwater. It is sold in the COOPE Cobano and for more information ask there.

One resident of Cabuya has successfully used EM instead of molasses to treat his frontage road for dust.

For human health problems, EM is used under the name "probiotics" , and a 5-nation study is underway in Europe to fund research into using "good bacteria" to treat such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, colitis, Crohns Disease, etc. There are also EM treatments available (not yet in Costa Rica, but in USA and Europe) for treating drinking water to maximize good stomach bacteria and improving the cleaning power of water used in washing machines, for example. It is even being used experimentally in automotive fuels to reduce pollution.

Efficient Microbes(EM)™ Original can not only be used as an inoculant to create living soils, it can also be used as a household cleaner, an inoculant for kitchen and municipal waste recycling, and as a spray to assist with general odor and pet control and is listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) for use in organic production.

Wikipedia says that “The Effective Microorganisms concept is considered controversial in some quarters and there may not be enough scientific evidence to support all of its proponents' claims. However the use of EM in the Bokashi intensive composting process for home kitchen waste has definitely been in use in Christchurch, New Zealand for several years, backed by the Christchurch City Council, with excellent results from users, and its use as a plant fertilizer is being researched locally.”

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