Trends towards 2050 predict a steady population increase to 9 billion people, forcing an increased food/feed output from available agro-ecosystems resulting in an even greater pressure on the environment. Scarcities of agricultural land, water, forest, fishery and biodiversity resources, as well as nutrients and non-renewable 
energy are foreseen. 

The Contribution of Insects to Food Security, Livelihoods and the Environment

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Edible insects contain high quality protein, vitamins and amino acids for humans. Insects have a high food conversion rate, e.g. crickets need six times less feed than cattle, four times less than sheep, and twice less than pigs and broiler chickens to produce the same amount of protein. Besides, they emit less greenhouse gases and ammonia than conventional livestock. Insects can be grown on organic waste. Therefore, insects are a potential source for conventional production (mini-livestock) of protein, either for direct human consumption, or indirectly in recomposed foods (with extracted protein from insects); and as a protein source into feedstock mixtures.

Since 2003, FAO has been working on topics pertaining to edible insects in many countries worldwide. FAO ’s contributions cover the following thematic areas:

  • the generation and sharing of knowledge through publications, expert meetings and a web portal on edible insects;
  • awareness-raising on the role of insects through media collaboration (e.g. newspapers, magazines and TV);
  • the provision of support to member countries through field projects (e.g. the Laos Technical Cooperation Project);
  • networking and multidisciplinary interactions (e.g. stakeholders working with nutrition, feed and legislation-related issues) with various sectors within and outside FAO .

 News

Edible Insects Have More Iron Than Sirloin Beef 29 November 2016 Move over meat. Beetle larvae consumed as food in some parts of the world deliver as much iron to the body, gram per gram, as beef ( J. Ag. Food Chem. 2016, DOI: 10.1021/acs.jafc.6b03286 ). Iron is an essential dietary mineral, but there’s widespread iron deficiency among populations that eat little or no meat. That’s because humans absorb much less iron from plant-based foods than from meat. [more]
NEW PAPER: Life cycle assessment of edible insects for food protein: a review 7 October 2016 Compared to their vertebrate counterparts in traditional husbandry, insects are extremely efficient at converting organic matter into animal protein and dietary energy. For this reason, insects for food and feed show great potential as an environmentally friendly choice in future food systems. However, to obtain a true assessment of this, more information is needed about the production systems. Currently, only six studies applying the life cycle assessment (LCA) method to insect production systems have been published. The studies are heterogeneous and thus difficult to compare. The aim of this paper was to establish a versatile reference framework that would allow for the selection of standardized settings for LCA applications in insect production systems, taking both the peculiarity of each system and the latest developments in food LCA into account. It is recommended that future LCAs of insect production systems take the following into account: (1) clear definition of the insect species and life stages included in the LCA, (2) use of at least two of the following types of functional units: nutritional, mass, or economic-based, (3) collection of empirical data in situ (e.g., on farms/production sites), (4) comparative analysis where production systems produce products that are realistic alternatives to the insect species under investigation, (5) inclusion of additional or previously unconsidered unit processes, such as processing and storage and waste management, and (6) use of a wide range of impact categories, especially climate change, resource consumption, nutrient enrichment potential, acidification potential, and impacts on land and water consumption in order to allow for comparison between studies. [more]
Grasshoppers -- the new sushi? 25 September 2016 Tucked away in a warehouse on an industrial estate in the non-descript suburb of Van Nuys in Los Angeles, a revolution is taking place. And the revolutionaries? Five twentysomething college friends who are trying their hand at urban farming. Their warehouse holds thousands of "micro livestock" as co-founder and chief executive Elliot Mermel calls them. That's crickets and mealworms to you and me. [more]

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last updated:  Wednesday, August 17, 2016