The future of food: insects, GM rice and edible packaging are on the menu
As the global population rises and food prices do too, many scientists are looking for alternatives to traditional foodstuffs
Two billion people around the world, primarily in south-east Asia and Africa, eat insects – locusts, grasshoppers, spiders, wasps, ants – on a regular basis. Now, with food scarcity a growing threat, efforts are being made to normalise the concept of entomophagy, or the consumption of insects, for the other 5 billion. Last year, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) published a list of more than 1,900 edible species of insects; the EU, meanwhile, offered its member states $3m to research the use of insects in cooking.
Why? Because insects, compared to livestock and fish, are a much more sustainable food source. They are available in abundance: for every human on Earth, there are 40 tonnes of insects. They have a higher food conversion rate than even our fastest-growing livestock (meaning they need to consume less to produce the same amount of meat) and they emit fewer greenhouse gases. As a fast-food option, which is how people treat them in countries such as Thailand, insects are greatly preferable to the water-guzzling, rainforest-destroying, methane-spewing beefburger. They are nutritious too: rich in protein, low in fat and cholesterol, high in calcium and iron.
That leaves the issue of palatability. Insects are generally viewed with disgust in the west, but attitudes are beginning to change. Thanks to adventurous restaurants – Copenhagen’s Noma has served up ants and fermented grasshoppers – and pioneering organisations such as Ento in London, we are coming to terms with the notion that insects might actually be nice to eat. (via The future of food: insects, GM rice and edible packaging are on the menu | Technology | The Observer)