Grub’s Up

25 Feb 2008

With more than one thousand insect species eaten by humans worldwide, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) organized a workshop last week to discuss the nutritional benefits and potential commercial developments for insects in the Asia and Pacific region.
Bugs such as crickets, caterpillars and grubs are high in protein and minerals and could be an important food source during droughts and other emergencies, according to the three dozen scientists who gathered in Change Mai, Thailand, from 15 countries around the world.
The FAO estimates that around 1,400 species of insects and worms are eaten in 90 countries, ranging from crickets and silk worms in Thailand to grubs and grasshoppers in Africa and ants in South America.
The challenge, experts say, is in supporting unregulated, small bug-food operations to increase their commercial activity and possibly supplement the food provided by food agencies during emergencies. Infrastructure for insect breeding, transport and marketing is non-existent in most countries.
Dutch entomologist, Prof. Arnold van Huis, blames a western bias against eating insects for the failure of aid agencies to utilize bugs as an aid food. ‘They are completely biased,’ van Huis said. ‘They really have to change. I would urge other donor organizations to take a different attitude toward this … It’s excellent food. It can be sustainable with precautions.’
The three-day workshop aims to raise awareness of the potential of edible forest insects as a food source, document the contribution of edible insects to rural livelihoods and assess linkages to sustainable forest management and conservation. Practicalities of management, collection, harvesting, processing, marketing and consumption will be discussed.


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