Let them eat bugs. So says a new report from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Crickets, grubs, grasshoppers, giant water bugs, caterpillars, mealworms and weevils — tuck in to the finest fare of the insect world.
The 191-page UN report, “Edible insects: Future prospects for food and feed security,” touts insects as a solution to feed a growing global population. The report emphasizes nutritional gains and environmental benefits of bug consumption. It also skirts the obvious and blames any “disgust” factor on the West: “People in most Western countries view entomophagy [insect consumption] with feelings of disgust. It is safe to say that most are reluctant to even consider eating insects and, moreover, that they perceive the practice to be associated with primitive behavior.”
Chewing on a plump grub with a head that resembles a blackened toenail may be nutritional — it’s also nasty. That’s not a culturally insensitive attitude of disgust, it’s calling a spade a spade.
The FAO report, in true avuncular UN fashion, basically suggests what the “other fella” in a Third World country should eat. You can be sure that as soon as the insect findings were released and the self-congratulatory applause died down, the UN bureaucrats who commissioned and championed the study were feasting away on steak and potatoes: “Do as I say, not as I do.”
These are the same type of paternal bureaucrats that would block biotech crops from reaching Third World countries: “Put down that bowl of Golden rice; it’s bad for you. Here, try these weevils instead.” Take away the other guy’s GM corn and tell him to keep eating crickets. Seems a tad … culturally insensitive?
The simple truth is most people around the world who eat bugs do so out of necessity. Sure, John the Baptist ate locusts; he also was wandering around in the back of beyond with nothing else to eat. In general, the more a country gains in wealth, the more its citizens choose meat over insects. That’s human nature and not a Western disgust factor.
Whether it’s continued crop yield increases, precision agriculture or biotechnology; the coming 9-billion population swarm can be fed through conventional agriculture.
If people in any country — rich or poor — want to eat insects out of culinary delight, then let them continue reaching for the cricket bowl with relish. But it’s disingenuous when a UN report touts the benefits of eating insects — as long as the “other fella” is eating them.
Given a choice, people would rather eat the rice — and not the weevil.
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