Innovation News
Innovation News

Edible insects: Future prospects for food and feed security


Category: Innovation News

FAO estimates that insects already form part of the traditional diets of at least 2 billion people. The most commonly consumed insects globally are beetles, caterpillars, bees, wasps and ants, but in some societies there is a degree of distaste for their consumption. To accommodate 9 billion people by 2050, current food production will need to almost double but land is scarce, oceans are overfished and climate change and water scarcity could have profound implications on food production. This book assesses the potential of insects as food and feed as one major and readily available source of nutritious and protein-rich food.

Insects are a highly nutritious and healthy food source, with high fat, protein, vitamin, fibre and mineral content: beef has an iron content of 6 mg per 100 g of dry weight, compared to between 8 and 20 mg in locusts. Insects also emit fewer greenhouse gasses than cattle or pigs, require less land and water than cattle and pose less risk of transmitting zoonotic infections. Insects also have a high feed conversion ratio: on average insects use 2 kg of feed to produce 1 kg of meat compared to cattle that require 8 kg for every 1 kg of meat produced.

Gathering, cultivation, processing and sale of insects could also provide important livelihood opportunities for people. "Because of their nutritional composition, accessibility, simple rearing techniques and quick growth rates, insects can offer a cheap and efficient opportunity to counter nutritional insecurity by providing emergency food and improving livelihoods and the quality of traditional diets among vulnerable people," the book states. Insect-based feed products could also replace fishmeal/soy, which are major components in feed for aquaculture and livestock.

To release the potential that insects offer for enhancing food security, the authors highlight four key challenges that must be addressed simultaneously: further documentation on the nutritional values of insects to promote insects as a healthy food; investigation of the environmental impacts of farming insects; clarification of the socio-economic benefits that insect gathering and farming can offer; and a clear and comprehensive legal framework at (inter)national levels to pave the way for more investment, leading to the full development of production and international trade in insect products.

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By: Arnold Van Huis & Joost Van Itterbeeck

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