Can insects save humanity


Posted on 26 June 2018 by Makhosi Mahlangu


Insects. With an increase in the global population and the need to avail new arable land, there is a need to look for alternative farming systems that are sustainable. The production of protein from macro-farming units is becoming unsustainable. To add to this demeanour is the food waste debacle. The present review evaluates the insect industry holistically from the growth of the insects to harvesting and processing to using insects in food waste reduction to the production of bioactive ingredients from insects to food safety issues regarding entomophagy to consumer acceptance of the insects and to the future of these small invertebrates. The authors highlight the potential of using insects as a future food and feed component and evaluate the stronger sustainability of protein production through insect farming. The paper also deals with the use of insects on food waste and in the production of bioactive compounds. Entomophagy is a global culinary trend dominant in Africa, America and Asia. With increased migration, the use of insects has to be seriously evaluated in markets not readily accepting them. The use of insects in feed also offers a potential for sustainable protein, considering that soybean protein and fishmeal are becoming difficult to use as a protein source due to costs and sustainable production methods. The future for the insect industry looks positive from all fronts. There has been an increasing concern related to climate change, volatile food prices, growing food insecurity and greenhouse emissions from agriculture. This has motivated experts to evaluate food production systems, with particular emphasis on protein production. Edible insects have been identified as a potential source of alleviating food insecurity and as a source of potential revenue.  There are estimated to be about 10⁸ (10 quintillion) individual insects alive at any given time in the world, with rapid reproduction rates and high fecundity. Edible and non-edible insects are key forms of forest ecosystems. They function as pollinators, aerators of the soil through burrowing and decomposers of dead plants and animals. Insects are important food sources for residents of the forest such as reptiles, fish, birds and to some plants like the carnivorous Venus flytrap. Many forest invertebrates including molluscs, annelids, crustaceans, arachnids and insects have been traditionally consumed by various communities.

There has been an increasing concern related to climate change, volatile food prices, growing food insecurity and greenhouse emissions from agriculture. This has motivated experts to evaluate food production systems, with particular emphasis on protein production. Edible insects have been identified as a potential source of alleviating food insecurity and as a source of potential revenue  (Durst and Shono, 2010).  There are estimated to be about 10⁸ (10 quintillion) individual insects alive at any given time in the world, with rapid reproduction rates and high fecundity (Durst and Shono, 2010, Schabel, 2010). Edible and non-edible insects are key forms of forest ecosystems. They function as pollinators, aerators of the soil through burrowing and decomposers of dead plants and animals. Insects are important food sources for residents of the forest such as reptiles, fish, birds and to some plants like the carnivorous Venus flytrap (Meyer-Rochow, 2010). Many forest invertebrates including molluscs, annelids, crustaceans, arachnids and insects have been traditionally consumed by various communities (Schabel, 2010).

 

To achieve global food security, there has to be a paradigm shift to alternative diets which include insects and a reduction in food waste. The planet has to be fed nutritionally sufficient diets which will not be at the cost of the environment (Papargyropoulou et al., 2014). The rapid growth of the human population may lead to consumption of traditional sources of animal proteins such as poultry, beef and pork becoming unsustainable, hence a need to shift to other forms of protein sources such as insects (Caparros Megido et al., 2014). Insects are a popular component of the diet, of a third of the human population (Miglietta et al., 2015). Insects are very important in the survival of humankind, playing important roles in being pollinators in plant reproduction; producing valuable products such as honey and silk; being used in medical therapy such as maggot therapy; in biocontrol of harmful pest species and to improve soil fertility through waste bioconversion (Van Huis et al., 2013).