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UN to world: Eat more insects; it’s good for the planet

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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The United Nations recently issued a report that encouraged more people to eat insects as a way to save the planet as the world’s population increases.

The U.N. argues that supplementing insects into our diets would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, curb livestock pollution, create jobs in developing countries, and feed millions of those who suffer from chronic hunger.

“Insects as food and feed emerge as an especially relevant issue in the twenty-first century due to the rising cost of animal protein, food and feed insecurity, environmental pressures, population growth and increasing demand for protein among the middle classes,” reads the UN report. “Thus, alternative solutions to conventional livestock and feed sources urgently need to be found. The consumption of insects, or entomophagy, therefore contributes positively to the environment and to health and livelihoods.”

According to the report, “consumer disgust” is a major reason why many people in the developed world don’t eat insects. However, more than 2 billion people worldwide already supplement their diet with insects.

However, it seems doubtful that the U.S. and other western countries will soon ditch their steak and pulled pork for cricket casserole or dung beetle souffle.

“If the UN and FAO wish this recommendation to be taken seriously, the organizations should lead by example and serve insects at all official meals,” said Brett Schaefer, International Regulatory Affairs fellow at the Heritage Foundation. “Until that time, it seems likely that this report will be ignored like many other U.N. studies.”

The UN relies heavily on funding from the United States — 22 percent U.N.’s $5.2 billion budget comes from U.S. taxpayers.

The BBC reports that: “Wasps, beetles and other insects are currently “underutilised’ as food for people and livestock, the report says. Insect farming is ‘one of the many ways to address food and feed security.'”

“The use of insects on a large scale as a feed ingredient is technically feasible, and established companies in various parts of the world are already leading the way,” reads the report. “Insects can supplement traditional feed sources such as soy, maize, grains and fishmeal.”

The U.N. says that insects are high in protein, fat, and minerals, and they have a low environmental cost to raising and can reproduce their numbers quickly. For example, crickets, use 12 times less feed than cattle to produce an equivalent amount of protein.

The report also notes that the level of ammonia emissions from insect-rearing are much lower than that of conventional livestock, like pigs.

The report also calls on the the food industry to raise the “status of insects” by adding them as options on restaurant menus. The report justifies this by arguing that some caterpillars in southern Africa sell at high prices because of their status as a luxury item. In the Netherlands, researchers are also looking into industrial-scale insect farming.

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