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article imageInsects may solve food shortage for growing world population

By Igor I. Solar     Aug 9, 2010 in Food
Wageningen - FAO is seriously considering issuing a policy statement recommending the farming and consumption of insects on concerns that population growth is causing shortage of protein from meat sources which high demand can be blamed for environmental damage.
The main rationale behind the initiative is that the production and consumption of meat requires too much land and produce a high level of greenhouse gases and we must seek alternatives, like farming and eating insects.
Professor Arnold van Huis, an entomologist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands and a consultant to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says that the environmental benefits of eating insects are numerous.
"Insects are able to convert food into protein much more effectively than other animals, because being cold blooded animals they do not waste energy heating their body." "Producing a kilo of beef requires 13 kilos of grass or green matter. But to produce a kilo of cricket, beetle or grasshopper meat one needs just 1.5 to 2 kilos of feed and it produces a fraction of the carbon dioxide emissions” he explains.
"The good thing about insects is that they require a lot less food to be raised and they are an excellent source of protein and vitamins," he adds.
Crunchy  spicy roasted bugs in Cambodia.
Crunchy, spicy roasted bugs in Cambodia.
The math behind the idea.
It is believed that the world population will increase from 6000-9000 million people by 2050 and there is likely to be further economic development particularly in the western world and developing nations in Asia and Latin America. And it's a proved fact that more development results in higher demand and consumption of meat.
"Applying the math is simple. On average, the West consumes about 120 kilos of meat per person. In China the average is 80 kilos per person, but this is growing quickly," says van Huis.
"If five billion people eat just 100 kilos of beef or pork, we need to grow an average of 6.5 billion kilos of beef or pork feed every year. There is not enough land or nutrients on Earth to support this production. This means that the poor simply will die of hunger."
Dr. van Huis' research is part of a 4-year program called “Sustainable Production of Insect Proteins for Human Consumption” funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality of The Netherlands. The aim is to investigate the nutritive and environmental aspects of insects as human food. This includes the study of sustainable harvesting of insects in South-east Asia and collaborating with FAO in different aspects of entomophagy (insect as food), including the formulation of a global policy on the subject.
Eating insects is an important fraction of the food consumed in Thailand, particularly in the northern region. Among the most popular varieties are locusts, mantises, deep fried crickets, giant water bugs, many kinds or barbecued insect larvae, and even grilled tarantula spiders. There are 15 000 farms in Thailand breeding and raising domestic cricket for human consumption. Several kinds of insects are part of the diet of rural people of Laos and Vietnam, and of Colombia, Brazil and Mexico.
Insects food stall in Bangkok  Thailand.
Insects food stall in Bangkok, Thailand.
According to Professor van Huis what stops insects from becoming part of Western menus are simply cultural prejudices. One of the main prejudices, he argues is that people do not find insects tasty, "However, if cooked properly they can be delicious," says the researcher.
If this article somehow made you hungry, you can start by getting, or collecting, the required ingredients and preparing them into tasty dishes following proved recipes such as those found at Creepy Crawly Cuisine: The Gourmet Guide to Edible Insects, Eat-a-bug Cookbook: 33 ways to cook grasshoppers, ants, water bugs, spiders, centipedes, and their kin or Man Eating Bugs: The Art and Science of Eating Insects.
More about Insects, Entomophagy, Fao, Food shortage
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