United Nations calls for insect diet to replace red meat

02 August, 2010

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is formally considering recommendations in a paper suggesting greater consumption of insects as a way of limiting global warming.

Research by Professor Arnold van Huis, an entomologist at Wageningen University in Belgium, has found that if people in developing countries were to replace meat consumption with eating insects, environmental impacts would be markedly reduced.

The FAO held a meeting on eating insects in Thailand in 2008, and there are plans for a World Congress in 2013 on the topic.

Van Huis' research found that breeding locusts, crickets and meal worms emits 10 times less methane than livestock. The insects also produce 300 times less of the warming gas nitrous oxide and considerably less ammonia, a pollutant in pig and poultry farming.

Insects also convert plant matter into protein efficiently because of their cold-blooded nature. However, Van Huis admitted that people will have "to overcome the yuk factor".

"Most of the world already eats insects," he said. "It is only in the western world that we don't. Psychologically we have a problem with it. I don't know why, as we eat shrimps, which are very comparable."

Around 80% of national diets around the world involve some insect content, with over 1,000 species consumed.

>> United Nations report calls for meat eating reduction

>> Less meat eating will benefit the planet, says UN

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