Eat more insects to fight hunger: UN

Eat more insects to fight hunger: UN

Beetles, caterpillars, bees and wasps may soon find a place in your regular diet! Insects are healthy, nutritious alternatives to mainstream staples such as chicken, pork, beef and fish and can prove critical in the fight against hunger, according to a new study by United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The research released at the International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition in Rome highlights the role of insects for food and feed consumption.
It is estimated that insects form part of the traditional diets of at least 2 billion people.

According to FAO’s research, done in partnership with Wageningen University in the Netherlands, more than 1900 insect species are consumed by humans worldwide.

Globally, the most consumed insects are: beetles (31 per cent); caterpillars (18 per cent); bees, wasps and ants (14 per cent); and grasshoppers, locusts and crickets (13 per cent).

Many insects are rich in protein and good fats and high in calcium, iron and zinc. Beef has an iron content of 6 mg per 100 g of dry weight, while the iron content of locusts varies between 8 and 20 mg per 100 g of dry weight, depending on the species and the kind of food they themselves consume.

“We are not saying that people should be eating bugs,” said Eva Muller, Director of FAO’s Forest Economic Policy and Products Division, which co-authored ‘Edible insects: Future prospects for food and feed security’. “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,” Muller said.Farming insects sustainably could help avoid over-harvesting, which could affect more prized species. Some species, such as meal worms, are already produced at commercial levels, since they are used in niche markets such as pet food, for zoos and in recreational fishing.

Insects promoted as food emit considerably fewer greenhouse gases (GHGs) than most livestock (methane, for instance, is produced by only a few insect groups, such as termites and cockroaches).

Because they are cold-blooded, insects don’t use energy from feed to maintain body temperature. On average, insects use just 2 kg of feed to produce 1 kilo of insect meat. Cattle, at the other end of the spectrum, require 8 kg of feed to produce 1 kg of beef.In addition, insects produce a fraction of emissions such as methane, ammonia, climate-warming greenhouse gases and manure, all of which contaminate the environment, the report said.

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