Recently, the United Nations has suggested an interesting and new approach of fighting world hunger: eating bugs. The UN has made the claim that eating bugs, or insects, will not only combat global hunger, but could also boost worldwide health through the reduction of both malnutrition and air pollution. The UNFAO, or the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, claimed that eating bugs like grasshoppers and ants could be a useful food for humans as well as livestock and even pets. The UN released a 200 page report on the matter in Rome at a news conference on May 13, 2013. This report stated that 2 billion people around the world are already eating bugs as a part of their diet because they are high in protein and minerals, and it also benefits the environment.
UN recommends eating bugs, or “entomophagy.” Wasps, beetles, caterpillars, ants, locusts, bees, planthoppers, crickets, termites, cicadas and flies represent the most common insect groups that are eaten. Although the idea of eating bugs might seem abhorrent or gross, in reality, insects have many positives in a nutritional sense. They contain “good fats,” which means they are rich in necessary things such as zinc, iron, and fiber. In addition, they are cold-blooded, which the UN claims means that they are more easily converted into energy during the digestion process.
Eating bugs would also reduce the harm to the environment, because they produce fewer harmful greenhouse gases. Plus, they eat human and food waste, as well as compost. Insects help our environment, so having more of them, as well as using them as a food source, could only be beneficial. As of now, eating bugs is reserved to those who gather edible insects in forests. Currently, insect farming only serves small, niche markets. The UN recommends a mechanization of the insect farming production, which could result in a huge, cheap business for those who are malnourished or hungry.
Another benefit to eating bugs is that insects reproduce quickly, and they are in many different locations. They leave a small environmental footprint and provide nutrients and protein. Since many children of the world do not receive enough protein through meat and fish, eating bugs would be a viable alternative that could help malnourished children become more healthy. The UN also has an Edible Insect Program that is currently studying the effects of eating arachnids, like spiders and scorpions. Although they are not insects, they could provide another alternative to those struggling to find food.
An interesting note made by the UN’s report is that entomophagy, or eating bugs, should not merely be used in times of extreme hunger or need. In fact, they are staples in many diets around the world, and not only when there is no other food sources available. For instance, southern Africa eats Mopane caterpillars while Southeast Asia dines on weaver ant eggs. Both of these things are considered delicacies in their respective areas and often sell for high prices.
Overall, although the idea of eating bugs may seem a bit odd at first, it can actually result in a reduction of world hunger if insect farming is widely implemented. As noted, insects reproduce quickly, and are already easy to find around the world. If the insect farming business is given some structure, nonprofit organizations could easily use it to provide food for many of the struggling communities around the world.
– Corina Balsamo