To feed a growing world population with progressively more demanding consumers, food production needs to be increased. This puts a heavy pressure on already limited resources of land, fertilizers and energy, while greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, deforestation, and environmental degradation will increase.
Contribution of edible insects to food security
The need for alternative protein sources (other than “meat” from livestock) is urgent. Promoting edible insects may mitigate the livestock crises. However, if no action is undertaken this food habit will soon disappear. About 1900 species of insects are eaten worldwide, mainly in developing countries. Edible insects constitute high quality food for humans, livestock, poultry and fish. Because insects are cold blooded, they have a high food conversion rate. Besides, they emit less greenhouse gases than conventional livestock. In some cases insects can be grown on organic waste reducing environmental contamination. Therefore, edible insects are a serious alternative for conventional production or other animal based protein sources, either for direct human consumption, or indirectly as feedstock. In the developing world, a re-evaluation of the food resource is required, while in the western world processing technology needs to be developed in order to make it an acceptable food item.
Conference “Insects to feed the world”
Edible insects can supplement the conventional production of meat, and are a valuable source of protein either for direct human consumption or for indirect use as feedstock. To fully realize the potential that insects offer for food and feed security further research, development and policy work still needs to be carried out by a wide range of stakeholders from both public and private sectors.
In order to discuss these issues and plan the way forward, an international conference will be held in 2014 on this topic:
“Insects to feed the world”
14-17 May 2014, in Wageningen, the Netherlands.
This conference is jointly organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Wageningen University and Research Centre (Wageningen UR). This conference is in follow-up to the recommendations provided by the Expert Consultation Meeting on Edible Insects that took place in January 2012 at FAO Headquarters Rome.
In preparation for this Conference, FAO and the Wageningen UR have made an exhaustive compilation and critical review of available literature and data covering the many issues involved for using insects for food and/or feed into a comprehensive report: “Edible Insects: prospects of insects as food and feed”.
We hope to bring together representatives from farmer’s associations, decision-makers from national and regional government, multilateral and bilateral donor agencies, investment firms, universities, and research centres, aid agencies and the food and feed industry.
For many people around the world, eating insects is an integral part of daily life. Up till now it has not received the attention it deserves relative to the positive economic, social and environmental contributions of insects as feed and food. The conference could be a turning point and provide a framework and a roadmap to develop a new food and feed sector that can contribute to a more sustainable global food security.
- (left) Oviposition (egg laying) of Black Soldier Flies to be used as raw materials for animal feed production, Spain (Paola Gobbi)
- (Middle)Silkworm pupae at a restaurant in South Korea (Verna Hastings)
- (Right) Expert Consultation meeting at FAO Headquarters Rome Italy