UK Aid agencies are reportedly trialling ‘insect diets’ on people suffering from starvation in third-world countries.
The new push to normalize eating bugs is now targeting the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Zimbabwe as a sort of ‘testing ground,’ according to the Guardian.
According to the outlet, £50,000 (U.S.$57,000) UK aid project in the DRC is adding migratory locusts, black soldier, and African caterpillars to the menu.
The news comes just weeks after South Korean scientists argued that eating worms could help humanity save the planet.
As The Daily Fetched reported last month:
The cooked mealworms, or beetle larvae, with added sugar, creates a “meat” alternative, which researchers claim tastes authentic as an acceptable alternative nutrition source.
“Recently, eating insects has become of interest because of the increasing cost of animal protein, as well as the associated environmental issues,” In Hee Cho, Ph.D., the project’s principal investigator, said in announcing the findings.
By 2050, the United Nations announced that the global population is expected to reach 9.7 billion people and almost 11 billion by 2100.
‘Insect diets’ and the looming food crisis
The World Economic Forum also pushes ‘insect diets’ on its website:
The world’s population will reach 9.7 billion people by 2050. This means that despite only 4% of arable land on the surface of our planet, an additional 2 billion more humans will have to be fed.
To address this impending crisis, world experts and leaders will meet this autumn at the UN Food Summit and then the COP26. Often overlooked in these discussions is the potential role insects can play in helping meet this challenge.
Insects are a credible and efficient alternative protein source requiring fewer resources than conventional breeding. Studies suggest that for the same amount of protein produced, insects, mealworms in particular, require much less land than other sources of animal proteins. A study on crickets suggests they are twice as efficient in converting feed to meat as chicken, at least four times more efficient than pigs and 12 times more efficient than cattle.
Today, 12% of the world’s wild whole-fish catch is used for farmed fish in the form of fishmeal. An alternative to fishmeal can be the products resulting from the processing of insects such as the Tenebrio Molitor. It has been shown that with mealworm, mortality in farmed fish is reduced by 40%.
Insect protein has high-quality properties and can be used as an alternative source of protein throughout the food chain, from feed for aquaculture to ingredients for nutritional supplements for humans and pets. All animal species, regardless of their diet, eat insects in their natural diet.
The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (Cafod) – a charity in England and Wales, hopes the Congolese will begin farming bugs and help end starvation.
Meanwhile in Zimbabwe, another project to use mopane worms in porridge served in schools is now underway.
She told the Guardian: “We are also actively encouraging people in the developed world to include insects in their diets.
“With a population that has an appetite set to far exceed the planetary limits, and with current agriculture decimating biodiversity and changing the climate, we have no option but to change how we produce and consume food … and our views on the topic too.”
The Africa aid projects were funded through UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), an arms-length body of the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy.
A UKRI spokesperson confirmed to the Guardian:
“We support specific research projects with funding, but we anticipate that the learnings and knowledge gleaned will benefit citizens around the world irrespective of their economic status. The protein and environmental benefits of consuming insects have been widely reported globally.”