Thursday, May 16, 2013

Insects are a Sustainable Food Source

As the impacts of climate change worsen, extreme weather including drought will make it harder to grow enough food to feed the world. In addition, rising population levels, particularly in urban centers, will put added pressure on already constrained food resources.

By 2030, over 9 billion people will need to be fed, along with the billions of animals raised annually for food and as pets. Meanwhile, land and water pollution from intensive livestock production and over-grazing are leading to forest degradation, thereby contributing to climate change.

A new book released today by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) says insects like beetles, wasps and caterpillars are an important potential source of nutrition that can help address global food insecurity.

The book, Edible Insects: future prospects for food and feed security, stresses not just the nutritional value of insects, but also the benefits that insect farming could potentially have on the environment and on addressing the rapidly increasing demand for food worldwide.

There are numerous health benefits associated with insects as a food source. Insects are high in protein, fat and mineral contents. They can be eaten whole or ground into a powder or paste, and incorporated into other foods. Insects already supplement the diets of some 2 billion people and have always been part of human diets in Asia, Africa and Latin America. In cities such as Bangkok and Kinshasa, and there is high demand for insects from urban consumers.

Of the 1 million known insect species, 1900 are consumed by humans. Some of the most consumed insects include beetles, caterpillars, bees, wasps, ants, grasshoppers, locusts and crickets.

One of the offshoots of this initiative could be insect farming. Another benefit of insect farming is that their greenhouse gas profile is much lower than that of livestock. (eg pigs produce 10-100 times more greenhouse gases per kilogram than mealworms). Insects also feed on bio-waste, use significantly less water than livestock, and can be farmed more easily.

© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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