Eating insects does far less damage. For one thing, the habit could help to protect crops. Some 30 years ago the Thai government, struggling to contain a plague of locusts with pesticides, began encouraging its citizens to collect and eat the insects. Officials even distributed recipes for cooking them. Locusts were not commonly eaten at the time, but they have since become popular. Today some farmers plant corn just to attract them. Stir-frying other menaces could help reduce the use of pesticides.
But insect populations vary with the seasons, and it is hard to control the amount on offer at a given time. “There is very little knowledge or appreciation of the potential for managing and harvesting insects sustainably,” notes Patrick Durst, a Bangkok-based senior forestry officer at the FAO. Those looking for a reliable source of protein might prefer to farm them. Protein makes up a high proportion of most insects’ weight. That makes them much more efficient at converting feed to protein than livestock. For example, a cow yields only 10lb (4.5kg) of beef for every 100lb of feed it eats, whereas the same amount of feed would produce tens times as much cricket.Academics at Khon Kaen University in Thailand have developed a low-cost cricket-rearing technique, and taught it to some 4,500 families. On just a few hundred square feet of land a single family can raise crickets in numbers large enough to increase their income significantly. Or they can rear them on a smaller scale inside their homes, within large containers. The insects do not require much food or water, grow fast and reproduce quickly. And if they somehow perish, the financial impact on a poor family is far less devastating than the loss of a cow or pig.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
The answer to our hunger problems might be found in eating less meat and more bugs. It is also better for the environment. From the Economist: