CHINA - Fried locusts, ant soup and other dishes made from insects could be the answer to the current global food crisis. The scarcity of food and resources is an inevitable threat to human development that can be solved through eating bugs, Paul Vantomme, senior forestry officer of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, told China Daily on Tuesday.
Vantomme is visiting Huazhong Agricultural University in Wuhan from Tuesday to Friday.
"Edible insects have many advantages in that they grow quickly, emit less pollution and are high in nutrients," he said, adding that many insects worldwide contain high quality protein, vitamins and amino acids required by humans, and can be used as animal feed or human food to alleviate the world's food crises.
Vantomme said insects can be grown on organic waste, thus also reducing air and water pollution.
According to a report released by the FAO last year, crickets need six times less feed than cattle, four times less than sheep and half as much as pigs and chickens to produce the same amount of protein.
Yu Ziniu, a microbiology professor at Huazhong Agricultural University, agreed that most insects could become a main component of the human diet.
The FAO foresees that by 2030 more than 9 billion people will need to be fed globally, along with billions of animals raised annually for food and recreational purposes and as pets, putting great pressure on shrinking land and water resources.
The report said eating bugs may be one of many ways to address food and feed security.
It said insects supplement the diets of approximately 2 billion people and have always been a part of human diets, with more than 1,900 edible insect species consumed around the world.
The most commonly consumed insects are beetles, caterpillars, bees, wasps, ants, grasshoppers, locusts and crickets, according to the report.
Although it has been promoted by the UN and is also a traditional cuisine in some parts of China, such as Yunnan and Guangdong, mass consumption of insects still has a long way to go, Gao Xiwu, an entomologist at the Chinese Agricultural University, told China Daily in a previous interview.
"A clear and comprehensive food safety standard is needed to pave the way for promoting insects as food," he said, adding that some insects are toxic with pesticide residue and bacteria, which might not be eradicated through cooking.
In contrast, Guo Huanchao, a manager at the Yunteng restaurant in Beijing, where bug cuisine is served, showed no concern about risks, saying that as long as the insects or worms are properly heated, either by boiling or frying, the dishes are hygienic.
The FAO report said there are no known cases of the transmission of diseases or parasites to humans from the consumption of insects when properly handled, but that the topic requires further research.