Monday, February 7, 2011

Eating insects 'could cut greenhouse gas emissions'

A little girls asks her mom, "what's for dinner tonight?" Her mom answers, "How about crickets?" While you may expect to hear this in a developing country, there is a chance you may one day hear this in your own house.
Researchers are looking at the possibility of farming insects such as crickets, locusts, and cockroaches for food. According to the researchers, this new dining menu could ease both climate change and food insecurity. Farming of the insects on a large scale has far less damage on the environment. The emissions of cattle and pigs versus insects was studied. Scientists looked at the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide because these have a greater warming effect than carbon dioxide. The ammonia production, which harms the environment by acidifying the soil and water, was also measured. Insects emitted 80 times less methane than cattle when compared weight for weight. Crickets emitted 8-12 times less ammonia than pigs.
According to the lead author of the study, 80% of the world's population dines on insects. Mealworms, locusts, and crickets are consumed all over the world. Cockroaches and sun beetles, which people do not eat, are a great source of protein and are being included in the study. The co-author of the study, Arnold van Huis, is encouraging insects as an alternative to cattle because "I don't think we can continue eating beef like we did in the past and the FAO has already predicted that in 2050 it will become so expensive no-one [will be able to] pay for it any more."
Critics point out that the farming of insects is subject to seasonal variation and therefore may only be farmed in a few countries. Monica Ayieko, a family and consumer economist at Maseno University, said "the 'Westernisation' of diets could pose an obstacle to encouraging consumption." Another critic worries that raising insects on a large scale is just inviting disaster. "If such insects are reared in millions and if they escape into nature, the entire world would face hunger."


  1. Humm.. Why not? I know insects are eaten in Africa, and some are very nutritious. Food preferences are partly acquired, so we could potentially develop a taste for some insects. The problem of escape is certainly something that will have to be considered, and this is probably specific to the type of insect being raised.

  2. This is very interesting and unexpected. I think I would give it a try (although I am partial to insects). Are there any health benefits? If it's very nutritional it could be a big success, especially if beef and pork continue to rise in price. I'm not sure I like the idea of an insect raid, though. I also think that facilities could keep them pretty maintained.