It is projected the by United Nations that the world population will reach 9.7 billion by 2050. This might become a real issue when it comes to food supply. Especially in poor countries that are expected to have the largest concentration of people such as India, Indonesia, Pakistan, as well as in many African countries such as Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Uganda and Nigeria.[1]

To put this into context, it is said that India  (the country expected to have the largest population in the world by 2020, surpassing that of China), already has at least 50 million people on the verge of starvation [2] and about 194.6 million people are undernourished.[3] This should make us wonder whether this could happen in the future if we do not take immediate actions.

 

Upcoming issues due to food shortages.

Experts have warned that billions of people will live with water scarcity by 2025. This might bring along several consequences such as food shortages, large scale migration and even violence.[4]

2F98942300000578-3373018-It_s_predicted_that_by_2025_some_2_8_billion_people_will_live_in-a-24_1450950289892.jpgSource: Crobis study by By Sarah Griffiths, picture by J.B. Russell

Climate change is playing a big role in food security as drought conditions are affecting essential crops that contribute to staple foods such as wheat, rice and maize. As a result of this, food prices are increasing, which means that the most vulnerable populations will suffer in getting the staple food to lead an active life. What is more, especially in developing countries, encountering these difficulties in access to food will also entail political instability.[4]

Derived from the above, we can conclude that there is an urgent need to find new ways of expanding the range of foods we consume in our daily diet, so we can ensure that the entire population of the world has access to safe and healthy food at all times of the year.

 

Eating edible Insects, a solution to Food Scarcity?

While “insectivore” has only been applied to animals that eat insects. This concept is becoming more common for people who feed themselves with insects. Entomophagy is the scientific word for this practice.[5]

It is worth mentioning that the practice of eating insects is not new; over the centuries, cultures from different parts of the world have followed the tradition of eating insects in their daily lives.[6]

e1f3f2103ceb2accf0580ce2049c50c6.jpgSource Interesting Maps-  by: Geospatial Technology /Pinterest

A good example of this is Mexico, where in any typical restaurant in Oaxaca, a state southwest of Mexico, it is common to find on the menu an entry: guacamole with chapulines. The dish has avocado, onion, chili and some lemon, while the garnish is dozens of small fried grasshoppers that crackle in the mouth like a dry fruit and taste a bit salty.

Dragonflies, beetles, bees, butterflies, ants and the already mentioned chapulines are common ingredients in several rural areas on the center and south of the country. Entomophagy is a centuries-old and entrenched tradition: the Zapotec, Mixtec and Mayan ethnic groups used them in their routine diet and as natural remedies. Mexico has the world’s highest number of edible insects, totaling more than 500.[7]

A study from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations [8]  suggests that insects can be the solution to hunger in the world. Insects contains a wide range of proteins, similar to meat, but at a cheaper cost.

Screen Shot 2017-01-25 at 22.58.30.pngSource: Cover photo F.A.O “Edible Insects” 

They are very nutritious and healthy food source, whose compounds are high in fats, proteins, vitamins, fiber and minerals. In this sense, it is said that caterpillars contain nearly 28 grams of protein per 100 grams and they are also a good source of iron and vitamin B1. What is more, they only contain 370 calories. To put this into a wider context, it is believed that caterpillars contain similar levels of proteins than beef and fish, but these little larvae provide even more vitamins and iron.[9]

Eva Muller, a co-author of the report released by FAO, describes insects as a solution to feed about 2 billion people worldwide.  She also mentions that there are more than 1 900 species that can be eaten in Africa and Asia, such as are beetles, bees and ants, grasshoppers, locusts and crickets, among others.

“Insect collection and home-level breeding at the industrial scale can provide significant livelihood opportunities for people. […] In developing countries, the poorest members of society can participate in the collection, cultivation, processing and sale of insects. These activities can directly improve their own diets and provide cash income through the sale of surplus production.”

Overall, FAO finds numerous benefits of massively incorporating insects into our diet, including the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Campaigning to make entomophagy a common practice, (better sooner than later).

Far from considering insects as a food for the future. We should start thinking how we could create and implement some campaigns to encourage people to leave behind the idea of insects as “gross little food”, to start spreading around the world the benefits of eating them. This might become a target for brands and ad professionals, since delivering a successful message does not always seem to be as simple as telling the advantages of a product.[10]

Screen Shot 2017-01-25 at 23.02.25.pngSource: Grub, promotional of “home of edible insects”.

Interesting outcomes have come out from a research conducted by GRUB [10]  a food company and Kinetic UK a media buying agency, in which both demonstrate that the impact of an effective message can increase in large scale the number of people willing to eat insects. Positive forecasts about the consumption of insects were draw from this research. “I think in 10 years time it will be a bit like sushi. We won’t have stopped eating meat, but it will be an alternative.” Jennie Sallows, head of insight at Kinetic UK.[11]

 

3312.jpgSource: Kinetic UK partnered with Ogilvy Change Photograph: Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty

In conclusion, even though having insects as dinner might still seems a bit gross for some people, the reality is that at some point in the future it might become a common and, more importantly, environmental friendly practice worldwide. So, why not start giving them a chance now!