Wake Up Call

Insects Are an Untapped Source of Food and Could Help End Hunger, According to U.N. Report

Eating bugs to solve world hunger? It might sound a little dramatic (can't we just, like, grow more crops or something?!), but a new report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations suggests just that.

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So, fried beetle, anyone?

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva spoke Monday at the International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition about the important "role of insects for food and feed consumption."

"Forests contribute to the livelihoods of more than a billion people, including many of the world's neediest. Forests provide food, fuel for cooking, fodder for animals, and income to buy food," Graziano da Silva said, according to the agency.

"But forests and agroforestry systems are rarely considered in food security and land-use policies. Often, rural people do not have secure access rights to forests and trees, putting their food security in danger. The important contributions forests can make to the food security and nutrition of rural people should be better recognized."

The report goes on to discuss the 1 million known species of insects, some of which already form a part of the diets of some 2 billion people. According to their research, people already consume more than 1,900 insect species worldwide. Some of the most popular species are: beetles (31 percent); caterpillars (18 percent); bees, wasps, and ants (14 percent); and grasshoppers, locusts, and crickets (13 percent).

In addition to being readily available, bugs are a good source of protein and other nutrients, the study shows. While beef has an iron content of 6 milligrams per 100 grams of dry weight, the iron content of locusts varies between 8 and 20 milligram per 100 grams of dry weight. Moreover, bugs need less feed to grow, making them easier and cheaper to farm. In general, insects use 2 kilograms of feed to produce 1 kilo of insect meat whereas cattle, require 8 kilograms of feed to produce 1 kilogram of beef.

Of course, all those common-sense appeals for the practice likely aren't going to change our minds about the critters. But might make a great case in places where bug-eating isn't quite so taboo. The report acknowledges that most industrialized nations don't allow the feeding of things like dirt and waste materials to animals for human consumption, which would be a problem since that's exactly what insects eat.

"We are not saying that people should be eating bugs," said Eva Muller, director of FAO's Forest Economic Policy and Products Division, in the report.

"We are saying that insects are just one resource provided by forests, and insects are pretty much untapped for their potential for food, and especially for feed."

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Lauren Saria
Contact: Lauren Saria