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Science | Physical Education | Citizenship | PSHE | Relationships and health

How insects could be the future of food

Should we all eat insects? New EU rules have paved the way for more bug-based foods. As population growth is set to strain global food supplies, some think insect diets are the answer. Locusts, worms, cockroaches: for many people these creepy critters conjure up feelings of disgust rather than delight. However, they could soon be on the menu at a restaurant near you. That is because new EU regulations have come into force making it easier for businesses to sell insects as food. Previously each EU country set different (often conflicting) food standards on insects, but now they are the same for everyone. The law has changed, but the real challenge will come in convincing the public that they should be eating bugs for breakfast. Currently two billion people across the world eat insects as a daily part of their diet — the majority from African and Asian countries. In the Congolese capital Kinshasa, the average household consumes 300g of caterpillars per week. Termites are considered a delicacy across several other sub-Saharan countries. Boiled and seasoned with a pinch of salt they reportedly taste just like crispy bacon. But now some argue that it is time for Western countries to embrace an insect-based diet: both for the good of our health, and the health of the planet. By 2050 there are projected to be nine billion people on Earth, and the UN predicts that food production will have to double to meet demand. But even at current levels, our food system is having a devastating impact on the environment. Raising livestock alone produces more greenhouse gasses than all the world’s transport. Bugs could offer a much more efficient food source. For example crickets require just 1.7kg of feed to produce 1kg of meat, whereas a cow needs 8kg to produce the same amount. Crickets also pack much more protein than your average beef steak. And there are plenty of other critters to choose from. Scientists have so far discovered over 1,900 different types of edible insects: from crunchy beetles, to soft and slippery mealworms and maggots. So should we all be eating insects? Grubs up Of course, argue some. Humans have been eating insects for thousands of years. The environmental and health benefits are clear. We just need to get over our modern squeamishness and view insects just like any other food source. If we can do this, an exciting culinary world of new flavours and textures awaits. Let's get stuck in. It is not that simple, others respond. Low-level insect farming may well be environmentally friendly. But we cannot be sure how sustainable the process will be once scaled up to fuel massive global food chains. What is more, researchers have found that some widely eaten bugs contain harmful toxins. If we want to make them a major part of our food system, we will need much more rigorous safety checks. KeywordsConflicting - Things that are different or in opposition to each other.

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