Eating insects to save the planet?

For most, the thought of eating grubs and crickets for dinner is the stuff of nightmares which should remain on I’m a Celebrity. However, there is evidence to suggest that eating insects, far from being a nightmare, could be the key to preventing rising sea levels and increasingly intense heatwaves.

Global warming is such a pressing issue that there might not even be enough time to evoke change radical enough to make a significant difference. This is especially true given that there are many things people would never assume as harmful to the environment; clothes shopping and eating meat in fact are having a profoundly negative effect.

According to the landmark report by the UN, we have just 12 years to keep the increase in global temperature to 1.5 degrees, as anything higher than this will greatly increase the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and the poverty of millions of people around the globe.

Food production accounts for approximately a quarter of all human-related greenhouse gas emissions, and as the global population rises ever upwards so will this frightening statistic.

In the Western world, a change significant enough to prevent catastrophe would mean eating 90 percent less meat and five times as many beans and pulses. Edible insects are being pushed as the solution to this crisis as this would dramatically reduce both food shortages and greenhouse emissions alike.

The problem is when it comes to eating insects, the many of the public simply cannot accept this as a viable alternative. In London, for example, edible insects fail to impact the food market on any level higher than a mere gimmick – and there are only a handful of restaurants that are willing to put a bug on the menu!

When it comes to combating this issue, the world may need to turn to Switzerland and Germany for answers. Up to the present, insects have been marketed as a sustainable alternative and a healthy source of protein. The issue with this is that this involves foregoing instant pleasure for distant benefits and it is difficult to make the world comply. So could the answer lie in marketing the products as tasty and trendy?

A study conducted in Switzerland and Germany discovered that more people are willing to eat insects if they are branded as an exciting, new trend. Out of 180, only 62 percent of the bug-tasting study subjects were willing to eat a mealworm truffle after reading a flyer talking about the environmental benefits, as opposed to 78 percent of subjects who read a flyer advertising the insects as the latest trend.

The result of the survey showed that the key to saving the planet is in switching the conversation surrounding eating insects as a stable food source, to purely being something fun and new. Interestingly, the group that had the mealworms branded as a new trend, also rated them tastier than the eco-friendly centered group.

There are hopes that as the general population becomes more aware of the impact of their diet, along with 3.5 million people in the UK now choosing veganism, insect-eating will follow a similar trajectory.

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Jake Walker-Charles

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October 2021
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