Eating insects: a solution for hunger and climate change

Understand why the FAO supports this unconventional idea as means to protect the environment and end hunger

Understand why the FAO supports this unconventional idea as means to protect the environment and end hunger


Perhaps we have never considered including insects in our diet. Eating flies, ants, caterpillars, crickets, and spiders may not sound very attractive, but insect-based feeding is an old tradition prior to the arrival of Spaniards in America and since time immemorial in some places in Asia and Africa.


The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO, ensures that the intake of insects as the basis of the diet of some communities is more common than is thought in Asia, Africa and Latin America. It is thought that about two billion people supplement their diet with the consumption of animal protein from insects. Ousseynou Ndoye, FAO Program Officer in Cameroon, believes that "taming insects is a good idea, this will allow local communities to produce insects and increase supply. An increase in production would mean for them an increase in their income. The domestication of insects is a win-win approach. The insects will be produced in a sustainable manner and at the same time, they will continue to improve the livelihoods of rural communities".


And everyone wins because by increasing the number of insects, some are dedicated to transforming organic matter and waste into fuel or organic fertilizers, others as a dietary supplement and some more as pollinators and soil restorers, while communities could increase their income and fight hunger.


In the absence of cattle, bugs


Natalie Devia, biologist and entomologist at the National University of Colombia, affirms that "there are pre-Hispanic records of some communities that based their diet on the consumption of some insects, because in those times, the indigenous people were aware that they could not have breeding animals anywhere".


The environmental benefits of replacing meat with the consumption of insects could be the salvation for many species on the planet, considering that the livestock sector is responsible for 51% of climate changes when breathing is added, methane and the destruction of forests by deforestation, according to the World Bank report, and that livestock farming is responsible for 30% of the world's water consumption as well as for 91% of the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. The consumption of meat and livestock is the main actor of global warming that causes climate change and is also the main cause of the consumption of resources and environmental degradation that affects the planet.


The comparative indicators between the environmental needs for the breeding of insects and that of cattle and pigs are clear. Insects can convert two kilograms of food into one kilogram of body mass, while cattle require eight kilograms for a single kilogram of increased muscle mass. As for the production of greenhouse gases, a pig can produce between 10 and 100 times more methane gas per kilogram than the average of insects. Insects can feed on food waste and other organic waste, transform it into organic fertilizers and at the same time become raw material of high nutritional quality for the manufacture of pet concentrates. Nutritionally, insects surpass meat and fish, since many of them contain high levels of fatty acids and are rich in fiber and micronutrients such as copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, selenium, and zinc, and, of course, pose a high risk less of transmitting diseases such as bird flu or mad cow disease.


The rate of growth and reproduction is hundreds of times higher and faster than that of any farm animal and the activity could represent at a massive level a viable solution to the social needs of vulnerable communities, as the collection of the natural environment, breeding and processing in flours with high levels of protein content represents an opportunity for women in areas of the planet with low economic activity.


The FAO has affirmed that by 2030 "we will have to feed more than nine billion people, in addition to the billions of animals that are raised annually for food", which suggests a change in the feeding strategy of the world population and look for alternatives to reduce the impacts generated by producing food. In addition, "external factors such as soil and water pollution due to intensive livestock farming and overgrazing are causing forest degradation, which contributes to climate change and other destructive environmental impacts," the FAO report adds.


Latin American Post | Alberto Castaño Camacho

Copy edited by Laura Rocha Rueda

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