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

South Korea looks to generate buzz for edible insects 19 August 2016 Insect-eating, or entomophagy, has long been common in much of the world, including South Korea, where boiled silky worm pupae, or beondegi, are a popular snack. Now, South Korea is looking to expand its insect industry as a source of agricultural income by promoting more consumption, joining a global trend that has seen rising interest in insects as a nutritious and environmentally friendly food. [more]
10 August 2016 While many important aspects of wild and farmed insects have been discussed by scholars, such as nutritional value, conservation and farming techniques, no study has addressed how insect farming contributes to rural livelihoods. Furthermore, the roles that interactions between insect farmers, their peers and institutions play in insect farming as a livelihood strategy are even less well understood. This paper presents a preliminary assessment of cricket farming as a livelihood strategy in Thailand. Fortynine cricket farmers participated in in-depth interviews designed to gain insight into how cricket farming contributes to rural livelihoods. This exploratory study investigates the following research questions: What are the characteristics of Thai cricket farmers and their farms? How do crickets contribute to the lives of rural farmers in Thailand? What role has social and human capital played in cricket farming communities? And what can be learned from the experience of cricket farming in Thailand? Findings suggest that cricket farming has improved the lives of many rural farmers in Thailand not only through the provision of an alternative income source, but through strengthening human and social capital. As such, further empirical data and case study analyses are needed in order to advance our understanding of this particular livelihood strategy. [more]
Dr. Yupa Hanboonsong on the benefits of insect consumption for food security 8 August 2016 Yupa Hanboonsong, Associate Professor in Entomology at Khon Kaen University in Thailand, provides insights into insect consumption trends and traditions in Asia during the 23rd Committee on Forestry (COFO) in Rome, Italy. Hanboonsong, lead author of “Six Legged Livestock” and “Edible Insects in Laos”, also speaks about the benefits of edible insects, which largely come from the forest, for food security and nutrition. [more]

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last updated:  Wednesday, August 17, 2016