Florence Dunkel Appointed to Edible Insects Advisory Board

Insects are a great resource and offer opportunities for food and for feed. The technical consultancy I was invited to participate in at the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations in Rome, Italy, January 2012 resulted in a 190 page document entitled Edible Insects: Future prospects for food and feed security. The download history (2.5 million downloads) of this document in the first 24 hours was phenomenal. The report is well done, colorful, organized, well-illustrated and academic, but interesting.

As ESA members, this is something we can help with. We all should be aware of the nutritional and environmental benefits of "bugs vs. beef," and we should be communicating this in a serious, not sensational manner. I did a piece for CBS SanFrancisco, Australia BBC, and just finished 7 live interviews for Canadian Broadcasting Co., including Newfoundland and the Yukon Territory as well as our neighbors in Calgary and Regina. Comparatively, not much regarding edible insects has been in the US news in the last 24 hours.

This topic may cause some concern for US beef producers. Remember, sushi was a new food 20 years ago for those from Western (European-derived) cultures. Food insects have some similarities in their psychological aspects, but edible insects are much broader in application since they are a sustainable-choice feed alternative (aqua-feed, poultry, pork), as well delicious and nutritious human food. Alternatives to conventional livestock and feed sources urgently need to be found.

Insects form part of the traditional diets of at least 2 billion people. More than 1900 species have been reportedly used as food. In most Western cultures, however, people view entomophagy with disgust and associate eating insects with primitive behavior. This attitude has resulted in the neglect of edible insects in agricultural research and abandonment of food insects in cultures with grain-based diets where insects served an essential nutritional function.  Regulatory frameworks governing food and feed insect sources are still largely absent and this is a major limiting factor hindering industrial development of farming insects. This report provides a review of cultural, ecological, nutritional, processing and safety, communication, and legislative aspects of food and feed insects worldwide.

An international conference on Edible Insects and food security will be held a year from this week 14-17 May, 2014 at Wageningen University, Netherlands sponsored by FAO and the Netherlands. I have been appointed to represent North America on the International Advisory Board for the conference and will be inviting ESA colleagues to serve on the US board preparing for the conference.  

Florence Dunkel