The case for eating insects
July 15th, 2010
08:15 AM ET
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In the next 40 years, the world is going to need a 70 percent increase in food production to feed a population that will be billions larger and considerably wealthier than it is today.

Where is that food going to come from? Dutch entomologist Marcel Dicke has at least a partial answer in the six-legged creatures we call insects.

Take another look at the locust; Dicke thinks we should think of it as the “shrimp of the land,” a delicacy that people should prize.

Speaking at the TED Global conference in Oxford, England Thursday, Dicke made the case for eating insects, which come in six million species and make up 80 percent of the animals on earth. “We’re not on a planet of man but a planet of insects,” he told the audience.

Four of every five people already eat insects intentionally and they’re prized as delicacies in China and Southeast Asia. Dicke showed a photo of his visit to Lijiang, China, where he ate caterpillars, locusts and bee pupae.

The rest of us eat insects unintentionally. He pointed out that, in the United States, for example, a fair amount of insect content is legally allowed in food. Chocolate can have 60 insect components per 100 grams; peanut butter can have 30 insect parts for every 100 grams; fruit juice can have five fruitfly eggs and 1 to 2 larvae for every 250 milliliters.

Insects are a particularly efficient crop. The same amount of feed can produce 9 times as much locust food as beef, Dicke said. That will come in handy because the world won’t only have more mouths to feed; those mouths will belong to people who are more affluent, and typically will eat more and demand more meat. The potential for the growth of livestock production is very limited, Dicke said.

Why are many people in the west reluctant to eat insects? Dicke said it’s “a matter of mindset.” To help change that mindset, Dicke served insect-covered chocolate to moderator Bruno Giussani, the European director of TED, who first protested, “I’m on a diet” before giving one a try.

Cookies topped with bugs were served in the break after Dicke’s speech.

In the service of journalism, CNN’s team sampled them. Our review: sweet, crunchy - and nutritious.

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Filed under: Food Politics • Hunger • Ingredients • Insects • News

soundoff (360 Responses)
  1. Free Coupons 2014

    Thank you so much. I had issues with this as well! Ill certainly come back for more great reads.

    February 17, 2014 at 1:30 am |
  2. Merlin

    LOL love all the coo=mments folkas

    September 22, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  3. essential oils

    Hi, where can I subscribe to your blog site? I like it, thanksCu

    August 9, 2011 at 8:05 am |
  4. Bill Davis

    Why can't we bake them, grind them into a powder, and mix them in a suitable proportion to other kinds of flour, especially wheat. Probably the powder would need to be bleached, as we do with flour.

    There's a certain number of insects ground into our flour as it is. They cannot all be removed in the processing.

    August 23, 2010 at 6:56 am |
  5. nohn

    nope nope nope, no insect buffet. That's why you have money...

    August 21, 2010 at 11:43 am |
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