The merits and challenges of turning insects into food

"It seems a fashionable novelty, buoyed by worthy watchwords: sustainable, healthy, low on greenhouse-gas emissions and highly nutritive (for insects contain up to 65% protein, three times the fraction in beef). Growing insects requires little infrastructure or resources—they can even be fed on waste. When collected or even farmed at the household level, insects can also provide an alternate revenue for poor families; women in particular benefit. They already form an integral or supplementary part of up to two billion people’s diets, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)."

"But there is little comprehensive research into how best to farm the creatures commercially as a standardised food source, or how that may aid future food security. Thailand has 20,000 cricket farms, but a draft FAO report studying global insects-as-food legislation found little real government oversight or regulation. In fact, it is farms that produce insects for livestock feed that may be ahead of the curve on safety and standards."

"Much of the scant literature that exists suggests the same: making use of "indigenous technical knowledge" when it comes to the preparation or wild collection of food insects. Alan Yen, a bioscientist at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, has found instances of inexperienced collectors cashing in on endangered insects in Mexican forests. When insects are collected and prepared by local experts, such problems are less likely. There are over 1,500 known edible insect species, many which can carry pathogens, so indigenous knowledge and appropriate regulation are about more than just conservation."

"Longer-term issues of food security are yet to be addressed. What nations versed in entomophagy need first is a codification of and legislation around what is already known. As demand grows abroad, innovators and entrepreneurs may begin to take seriously the challenges of large-scale farming."

Article on +The Economist: http://ow.ly/CVesb 

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