Sustainability: Eating Insects to Save the Earth
The thought of eating insects often provokes disgust in many people. But what if we could get over our squeamishness and start eating insects regularly? Sure, your relatively tame palate might not be accustomed to insects’ taste or crispy texture. But there are good reasons why you should consider making them a part of your diet.
Table of Contents
Sustainable Source of Food
Insects are a sustainable source of food that can help save our Earth. They are packed with essential nutrients, are easy to cultivate, and require less land, water, and energy to raise than traditional livestock. Insects can also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has endorsed edible insects as a sustainable way to alleviate world hunger and climate change, encouraging people to “overcome the psychological barrier” of eating them (1).
Eating insects may sound strange to some, but it is quite common. More than 2 billion people around the world regularly consume insects (2). This staggering statistic should not be surprising, considering there are an estimated 10 quintillion (that’s 10,000,000,000,000,000,000) individual insects alive at any given time.
There are around 1,900 species that are edible to humans. So there’s a good chance you’ve already eaten an insect and didn’t even know it. Insects are often used as food colorings, flavorings, and thickeners in various products, including pasta, cereal, bread, crackers, and ice cream.
Let’s explore the potential of insects as a food source and find out why they might be the key to Saving the Earth.
Insects are among the most critical bioresources that can be part of the sustainability solution to feeding the world’s growing population and ensuring nutritional security. Fried, baked, or roasted insects are a crunchy and healthy snack high in protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals (1).
Current Situation Needing Change
1. Fertilizer Shortage (& Prices)
Nowadays, abundant crops depend on fertilizer, a fundamental element in agricultural production.
The world is facing a shortage of phosphate rocks (PR), a key ingredient in fertilizer. Phosphate mines are running low, and the remaining reserves are becoming harder to access. Unfortunately, phosphorous is a nonrenewable resource, so once it’s gone, it’s gone for good.
Several reports warn that current phosphate reserves will be depleted within 50 to 125 years. In fact, from 2040, we will likely start facing a period of deficiency that will restrict agricultural production (3).
This is concerning, as the world’s population is projected to increase from the current 8 billion to 9.7 billion in 2050 (13). This means that we will need to produce more food. With such a population, we could be staring at mass starvation and a potential political crisis between phosphate-rich countries and importing countries.
Some may say that this is quite far-fetched. Zooming in on what is happening today, global fertilizer prices have shot up by over 80% due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war (4). This has led to increased food prices amid tough economic times.
With minimal advancement in other food sources, we must find more efficient and innovative ways to increase food production and security. This is where insects come in. Insects have been eaten for centuries by cultures around the world. In many cases, they are considered a delicacy.
Insects are everywhere; they reproduce quickly, have high growth and conversion rates, and do not rely on scarce resources like land, water, and feed. Therefore, they can potentially mitigate the effects of the fertilizer crisis by providing a sustainable and alternative source of protein to humans and animals.
2. Globalization Issues
We are amid a climate crisis, and it is no secret that livestock farming significantly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. The United Nations, Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that the livestock sector is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions (5).
This huge figure is due to methane and nitrous oxide produced by cows and other animals, as well as deforestation caused by the expansion of pastureland and animal feed production.
Besides, the livestock sector is also one of the biggest consumers of freshwater (6). Feed production and processing, animal digestion, manure management, and enteric fermentation are estimated to use about one-third of the world’s fresh water.
The water demand will only increase as the population grows and the need for meat increases, weighing in on the sustainability and ethicality of the meat industry as a whole.
The current system is not only unsustainable but also unjust. Small-scale farmers and pastoralists are the ones who suffer the most from the negative impact of livestock farming on the environment. They are also the ones who are being pushed out of their land to make way for large-scale commercial operations.
We are also seeing the effects of climate change on our food supply. Droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events are becoming more common and are expected to disrupt food production further.
Besides the weather, human-imposed factors such as wars and trade disputes can also lead to food shortages and price hikes. We have seen this happen in the past year with the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
The current system is not sustainable, and we must find a more efficient way to produce food. Insects could be the solution we are looking for.
3. Land Needed For Current Farming Techniques
Insects require a tiny amount of land to farm and can be vertically stacked so that you can get more output from a smaller land area. For example, when looking at the land required per gram of protein by species, studies show that Cows need 254 square meters, compared to 18 square meters for insects (8).
Farmland required per gram of protein in livestock vs. insect farming as of 2018, by species (in square meters) Source: statista.com
This is important. We must start producing food more efficiently to feed the world’s growing population without destroying our earth. And there is no more efficient way to produce protein than farming and eating insects.
We are already experiencing a land shortage for farming, as more and more land is being used for urbanization and other purposes. This is putting a strain on our resources and is one of the reasons we need to find a more efficient way of producing food.
Insect farming could be integrated into urban and city locations, reducing the farming Carbon Footprint even further. This golden opportunity should not be overlooked to improve food security and reduce the Carbon Footprint of our food production (12).
4. Potential Famine 2023-2024
The global hunger crisis is moving into a dangerous phase, with World Food Program predicting a new wave of catastrophic famine in 2023-2024 (9). They have warned that the world is not prepared to deal with it.
The report says we are on course for a repeat of the famines of the 1970s when nearly a million people died in Cape Verde, Bangladesh, Chad, and Ethiopia. The main difference this time is that the number of people at risk of starvation is much higher.
The WFP estimates that there could be as many as 250 million people facing hunger by 2023-2024. This is due to a perfect storm of factors, including climate change, economic upheaval, the Ukraine-Russia crisis (10), and population growth.
The WFP has warned that climate change will also play a role in the coming famine. They say that droughts and erratic rains make it harder for farmers to produce food.
According to the WFP, we need to take immediate action to avert this impending famine. And one of the things we can do is to start farming insects. It’s the most efficient way to produce protein and could help save millions of people from starvation.
Benefits Of Insect Farming
Raising and eating insects has several benefits that could help Save the Earth and Humanity.
Here are some of the reasons why insect farming is good for sustainability:
- Insects Take Up Less Land and Other Resources
Insects require far less land and resources than traditional livestock like cattle or pigs (8). Insect farming takes up 10-80 times less land than livestock farming, making it a more efficient use of resources. In addition, you can farm insects in vertical systems, producing more food in a smaller space.
- Insects Produce Fewer Greenhouse Gases
Insects also produce fewer greenhouse gases than traditional livestock (12). Cattle farming, for example, emits large amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. In contrast, insects like crickets release very little methane.
- They can help Reduce the Carbon Footprint
Insect farming can also help offset your carbon footprint. Insects produce fewer greenhouse gases than traditional livestock farming. Breeding insects requires less energy and land than breeding livestock. They can be raised in layers in climate-controlled facilities, offering the possibility of year-round and local farming.
- Insects Require less Feed
Insects are also more efficient eaters than traditional livestock. They can convert food into edible protein at a higher rate, requiring less feed overall. Since they are cold-blooded, insects’ feed-to-meal conversion rates (feed needed to produce a 1 kg increase in body weight) are 2-fold to 4-fold higher than vertebrates like chickens, pigs, or cattle. On average, insects can convert 2KG of feed into 1KG of insect mass (11), whereas cattle require up to 8KG of feed to produce 1KG of body weight gain.
- Insects Can Be Farmed on Organic Waste
Insects can feed on bio-waste such as dirty water, animal slurry, compost, paper, and cardboard that humans and traditional livestock cannot eat. This means that they can be farmed on dirty water and organic waste that would otherwise end up in landfills. They can also turn brewery waste into an additive for depleted soil and high-protein animal food.
- Insect Farming is Less Water Intensive
Insect farming is also less water-intensive than traditional livestock farming. It takes approximately 550-700 litres of water to produce 1KG of beef (14), whereas insects take just 1-4 litres of water to produce the same amount of insect protein.
- Insects can be Grown Locally
Insects can be grown locally, even in urban and city locations, which reduces the need for transportation and the associated emissions. Farming environmentally-adaptive species of insects could also help reduce the impact of climate change, as they are more likely to survive in a changing climate than traditional livestock.
- Insects Produce Less Waste
Insects produce less waste than traditional livestock. Their waste is also less polluting, as it contains fewer toxins and can be used as a fertilizer. In fact, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has suggested their excrement, called frass, is an excellent fertilizer and soil amender.
- Insects Can Be Used to Control Pests
Some species of insects can be used to control pests, reducing the need for harmful pesticides. For example, the larvae of the common green lacewing can be used to control aphids, mealybugs, and whiteflies.
- Insects can Help Restore Ecosystems
Farming insects can help restore ecosystems that have been damaged by traditional livestock farming. For example, insects can be used to break down manure and improve soil health.
- Insects can Reduce Deforestation
Thousands of land cover and habitats are destroyed yearly to make way for traditional livestock farming, including grazing grounds and cropland. Insect farming doesn’t require as much land, so it can help reduce deforestation.
- Insects are a Nutritious Food Source
They produce high-quality dry proteins that rival soybean in protein concentration and essential micronutrients like calcium, iron, and zinc. Insects are also a good source of healthy polyunsaturated fats, which are vital to human health but difficult to obtain from other sources.
- They pose low risks of transmitting zoonotic diseases, as they do not host the same pathogens as traditional livestock. What’s more, their small size and rapid reproductive cycle make it difficult for diseases to spread.
- Insects can also be a valuable source of nutrition-rich feed for animals
For example, crickets contain more protein than soybeans, making them an excellent source of livestock feed.
- Insect farming is a multi-million dollar industry that employs millions of people around the world.
It can provide a source of income to smallholder farmers, as it requires little capital investment and can be done on a small scale.
- Insect processing is fairly simple and does not require expensive machinery.
This means it can be done by small businesses and generate employment in rural areas.
- Insects are a profitable solution to food waste
Globally, food waste is a huge issue that’s attracting cross-sector attention, yet only a few sustainable solutions exist. Insects can turn this food waste into a valuable resource, providing an additional income stream for businesses.
Drawbacks Of Insect Farming
- Yuck Factor
A “yuck factor” associated with eating insects may be difficult to overcome. This is particularly true in Western cultures, where eating insects is not widely accepted. But by adapting various culturally acceptable processing methods such as powders, flours, and oils, the “yuck factor” can be minimized.
- If not well managed
Insect farming can lead to increased populations of pests. For example, if farmers are not careful, the mealworms they farm for food could escape and become a nuisance. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider the risks associated with any farming, including insect farming, before getting started.
- Need to be Properly Prepared
Some health risks are associated with eating insects, mainly if they are not properly cooked. For example, certain species of caterpillars can cause organ damage if eaten raw. It’s important to be aware of these risks and take steps to minimize them.
Like with many farming processes, the quality of the output is mainly dependent on the input. If insects are fed a diet of unsafe waste materials, they will likely contain high levels of toxins and heavy metals. This is why it’s essential only to use safe, reputable feed sources for insect farming.
Are Insects Healthy To Eat?
There are over 2 billion people in the world who regularly consume insects as part of their diet, and there’s a reason why (11). Not only are insects a sustainable source of protein, but they’re also packed with essential vitamins and minerals such as calcium, zinc, and iron.
But not all insects are created equal when it comes to their nutritional content. For example, caterpillars contain more protein than crickets, while termites are higher in fat. So if you’re looking to add insects to your diet, it’s essential to do your research and choose ones that will best fit your nutritional needs.
There is a caveat, though. Not all insects are safe for human consumption. In fact, some can even be poisonous. So before you start munching on bugs, ensure you know which ones are edible and which aren’t.
Research shows that insects can offer heart-healthy nutrition due to the high load of iron, zinc, B12, essential amino acids, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants (12).
A single serving of insects provides as much protein as two eggs, and they require far less land, water, and energy to rear than conventional livestock such as cattle. What’s more, they produce a fraction of the greenhouse gases that livestock does, making them a more sustainable source of protein.
Using Insects In A Circular Food System
A circular food system is restorative and regenerative by design and seeks to keep products, materials, and nutrients within the system for as long as possible. This is opposed to the linear food system, which takes a “take-make-dispose” approach in which resources are extracted, used, and discarded. A vital component of a circular food system is waste reduction.
Insect farming provides efficient waste recycling systems with high environmental and nutritional yields. Insects are fed waste streams from crop and animal farming, providing high-quality protein in return. Not only do they reduce waste, but they can also be used to replace conventional livestock in a regenerative agriculture system.
This new farming frontier promises massive opportunities for growth and scalability and significant environmental and sustainability benefits. For example, using insects in a circular food system could be a game-changer in the fight against climate change, helping us save precious resources while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
With a growing world population, we must move away from conventional farming and find innovative alternative ways to produce both sustainable and nutritious food. Farming and eating insects offer a viable solution to this problem.
Insects are a sustainable and environmentally friendly source of protein. They are efficient converters of feed to food, requiring less land, water, and feed than traditional livestock.
They also have a lower carbon footprint than conventional meat sources. Since insects can be fed a variety of food waste streams, they can play a unique role in a circular food system, helping to reduce waste and close the nutrient loop.
If we are to meet the demands of a growing world population, ensure food security for all, and save our Earth, we must start exploring new ways of producing food. Insects offer an up-and-coming solution to these problems.
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1. Insects for food and feedFood and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Predictions towards 2050 suggest a population increase to 9 billion people, leading to increased food demand and putting a strain on the environment due to scarcity of agricultural land, water, forest, fishery, biodiversity resources, and non-renewable energy.
Insects, being high in quality protein, vitamins, and amino acids, can offer a solution. They have a high food conversion rate, requiring significantly less feed than conventional livestock to produce the same amount of protein. Insects also produce fewer greenhouse gases and ammonia than traditional livestock, and they can be reared on organic waste, making them a potentially more sustainable source of protein. They could be used directly for human consumption or indirectly in recomposed foods and as a protein source in animal feed.
Since 2003, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has been researching edible insects and their role in food security in various countries worldwide. Their work includes knowledge generation and sharing, raising awareness about the role of insects, providing support to member countries through projects, and fostering networking and multidisciplinary interactions with various sectors.
2. How many people on our planet eat insects: 2 billion?Research Gate
The article from the Journal of Insects as Food and Feed critically evaluates the widely cited figure that approximately two billion people on Earth consume insects. The original number is sourced from a FAO report from 2013, but the authors aim to investigate its accuracy, given the fact that there are no global statistics on insect consumption. Key factors influencing insect consumption include cultural acceptance, availability and seasonality of edible insects, and shifts in dietary habits due to socio-economic development. The authors highlight the lack of data at national or sub-national levels which could offer a more precise picture of insect consumption. Therefore, they conclude that determining an accurate number of insect consumers globally is extremely difficult, and the popularly cited figure of two billion might be an overestimation.
3. Fighting Peak PhosphorusThe Future of Strategic Natural Resources
This document outlines the alarming rate at which the world's phosphorus reserves are being depleted, due to their use in global food supply chains, particularly as crop fertilizers. With current rates of consumption, known phosphorus reserves could be exhausted within 80 years.
To address this issue, the document presents a three-part plan proposed by Mission 2016. Firstly, the plan suggests reducing demand through smarter fertilizer use. This involves a worldwide campaign focusing on developing countries that have high consumption rates, to educate and equip farmers with tools to accurately assess their fertilizer needs and avoid overuse.
Secondly, it proposes recycling phosphorus from human and animal waste. Innovative techniques such as struvite formation and thermochemical treatments are recommended, with examples of successful implementations in the EU, Canada, and the US. The plan advocates for these methods to be introduced in rapidly developing regions, such as China and India, which could significantly reduce their phosphorus waste and curtail the growing demand for phosphorus imports.
Lastly, the plan encourages the exploration of new potential mining zones to extend the lifespan of known phosphorus reserves. This multi-pronged approach could prevent a looming phosphorus shortage if action is taken immediately.
The document also discusses the historical context, tracing back to the agricultural practices in the US and USSR during the Green Revolution in the 1970s and 80s, which led to a significant increase in phosphorus production. It also notes the shift in the largest phosphorus consumers from the US to India and China.
To successfully manage phosphorus resources, the document recommends global cooperation and knowledge sharing through platforms such as the Open Information Exchange and the UN's Strategic Minerals Association. The ultimate aim is to create sustainable agricultural practices worldwide that prevent phosphorus depletion and environmental damage.
4. Short-term policy considerations to respond to Russia-Ukraine crisis disruptions in fertilizer availability and affordabilityInternational Food Policy Research Institute
This blog post by Charlotte Hebebrand and David Laborde on the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) site discusses the impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on fertilizer availability and affordability and suggests short-term policy responses to mitigate the negative effects on global food security.
Key points include:
Maintain global trade to ensure fertilizer availability: Governments should remove existing export restrictions, forgo new ones, and designate fertilizers as essential goods. The impact of economic sanctions on Russia and Belarus, significant fertilizer producers, needs monitoring. They suggest mitigating potential sanction impacts via financial and technical solutions, using "comfort letters", legal helpdesks, and special credit lines. They also propose barter trade as a short-term solution for governments to secure fertilizer supplies.
Help all farmers increase their fertilizer use efficiency: With constrained supply, the priority should be to educate farmers to improve fertilizer use efficiency. This could be achieved via extension services providing knowledge and tools for more efficient, site-specific nutrient management and promoting the "4Rs" (right nutrient source, right rate, right time, right place).
Support the most vulnerable: Governments should provide targeted support to the most vulnerable farmers in low- and middle-income countries, including temporary and targeted subsidies. Support should encourage efficient plant nutrition, work in tandem with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and include proper tracking to avoid diversion and smuggling. Price controls should be avoided as they usually create black markets.
Provide financial support for SMEs and fiscally stressed governments: Governments should ensure that SMEs in the fertilizer value chain have continued access to financing. International communities should assist low- and middle-income countries facing high fertilizer prices and supply issues, making sure any subsidy does not fuel inflation or unfair competition.
Ramp up supply in the short run: Increasing supply is the best remedy for high prices. New production capacity coming online in countries like Nigeria and India for nitrogen fertilizers, other countries for phosphate, and Canada for potash will help stabilize the market. However, long-term sustainability shouldn't be sacrificed to address immediate crisis.
Improve market intelligence and enhance transparency: Providing accurate and timely information on fertilizer supply can help governments, producers, and consumers avoid misinformation that may lead to panic buying or hoarding. The authors recommend expanding the G20 Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) to monitor fertilizer markets closely.
In conclusion, the authors call on governments and organizations to act quickly and judiciously to support farmers while avoiding trade restrictions and high subsidies. They promise to examine longer-term considerations for fertilizer markets and policies in a subsequent post.
5. Key facts and findingsFood and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
This report details the impact of livestock on greenhouse gas emissions and the potential strategies to reduce this. The key facts and findings are:
Livestock contributes to 14.5% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, totaling 7.1 Gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent per year. Cattle are the most significant contributors, responsible for about 65% of livestock emissions.
Major sources of livestock emissions are feed production and processing (45%) and enteric fermentation in ruminants (39%). About 20% of the emissions come from fossil fuel consumption along supply chains.
On a commodity basis, beef and cattle milk cause the most emissions, contributing 41% and 20% respectively. Pig meat, buffalo milk and meat, chicken meat and eggs, and small ruminant milk and meat follow.
Emission intensities vary among commodities, with beef having the highest (300 kg CO2-eq per kilogram of protein) and cow milk, chicken products, and pork having lower global average emission intensities (below 100 CO2-eq/kg).
Livestock emissions are comprised of 44% methane, 29% Nitrous Oxide, and 27% Carbon Dioxide.
Efficient practices, such as improving animal and herd efficiency, better feeds and feeding techniques, improved breeding, and better animal health interventions, can help reduce emissions.
Mitigation potential exists. Reducing the "emission intensity gap" within existing production systems could cut emissions by about 30%. Grassland carbon sequestration could contribute further to this effort.
Key policy areas include extension and agricultural support services, research and development, financial incentives, market friction instruments, advocacy, Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs), and international agreements.
6. Water use in livestock production systems and supply chainsFood and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
The report discusses the analysis of an irrigation scheme, comparison of water productivity (WP) assessment results, and the identification of response options. The key points are:
In analyzing an irrigation scheme, it's crucial to use unambiguous terminology, such as the one proposed by Perry (2011). It's important to differentiate between water consumed and not consumed, beneficial and non-beneficial consumption, recoverable and non-recoverable fractions.
The efficiency of an irrigation scheme can be improved by reducing non-productive water losses and minimizing non-consumptive water loss. Changing the irrigation system, such as switching from furrow to drip irrigation, can help reduce these losses. Timely and accurate irrigation is also essential, in line with the crop's needs. Deficit irrigation programs may be adopted to optimize crop water productivity.
WP comparisons must use the same metrics and reveal the potential to improve water consumption effectiveness, the relative shares of blue and green water, and measures for improvement if WP is below the benchmark.
When interpreting assessments, consider geospatial and temporal scales, production conditions, and the presence of any data limitations. Comparisons between different production contexts can lead to errors, and mitigation practices should not be based on such comparisons.
The interpretation of the assessment can influence decision-making to optimize water use, technologies, geographical locations, and agricultural and livestock management. Socio-economic contexts, like the dependence of extensive livestock systems in arid regions on scarce water, must be included in the analysis.
Response options depend on complex variables like basin attributes, production process, footprint size and type, and available best practices. The first step is prioritizing based on environmental impact and water productivity. After prioritizing, design appropriate action. A systematic approach includes questions about the sufficiency of internal action, need for external party collaboration, and stakeholder engagement levels.
Potential responses encompass technology and improved practices, efficiency, strategy and due diligence, stakeholder engagement, knowledge sharing and co-investment, and innovation.
7. Fertilizer prices expected to remain higher for longerWorldbank Blogs
Fertilizer prices have risen almost 30% since the start of 2022, following last year’s 80% increase. This is due to several factors including increased input costs, supply disruptions caused by sanctions (on Belarus and Russia), and export restrictions (in China). This situation has been worsened by the war in Ukraine.
Input costs have soared due to rising natural gas prices in Europe, causing production cutbacks in ammonia, an essential ingredient for nitrogen-based fertilizers. In China, high coal prices led to a cut in ammonia production, leading to an increase in urea prices.
The Ukraine conflict has caused economic sanctions and disruptions in trading routes, further escalating fertilizer prices. Russia contributes significantly to global urea, DAP, and MAP exports, and together with Belarus, makes up two-fifths of global MOP exports. To ensure domestic availability, China has suspended fertilizer exports until at least June 2022.
Despite recent reductions in urea and DAP prices due to lower offers in India, potash prices show no signs of dropping. Sanctions on Belarus and Russia and Lithuania's halt on transporting Belarusian potash have exacerbated potash supply shortages.
Global fertilizer demand has remained robust throughout the COVID-19 pandemic due to strong demand from countries like Brazil, the United States, and China. However, the record-high prices may limit fertilizer use despite higher crop prices.
The outlook suggests that urea and DAP prices will remain high as long as natural gas, coal, ammonia, and sulfur prices remain elevated. The resumption of China’s urea and DAP exports after June and the return of potash supply from Russia and Belarus will also affect the future price trajectory.
8. Farmland required per gram of protein in livestock vs. insect farming as of 2018, by species(in square meter)Statista
9. Unprecedented needs threaten a hunger catastropheSaving Lives Changing Lives
The world is facing a severe hunger crisis due to a combination of climate shocks, conflict, COVID-19, and rising costs of food and fuel. The conflict in Ukraine is exacerbating the situation as many countries rely on its wheat and other food supplies, potentially pushing an additional 50 million people towards famine. However, the World Food Programme (WFP) is expected to raise less than half of the $22.2 billion needed to both save lives and build resilience for 152 million people in 2022. This situation calls for a significant increase in support to avert disaster for millions of people.
10. A reflection on global food security challenges amid the war in Ukraine and the early impact of climate changeMcKinsey & Company
Global high food prices will affect every country but will hit some harder than others. Countries like China, the United States, and those within the European Union have high local production, high stock levels, and strong purchasing power, hence, they are more protected. However, countries such as Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Yemen, which heavily rely on grain imports, have limited stocks, and low purchasing power, are highly vulnerable. More than 1.4 billion people live in these vulnerable areas, and this number could rise to 1.9 billion if global shortages persist and countries deplete their reserves.
These vulnerable countries are even less prepared to handle the fiscal and social consequences of their predicament. Their local currencies have depreciated significantly, making US dollar–denominated imported commodities more expensive. Combined with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, these nations are experiencing budget deficits, high unemployment levels, and are likely to face increased inflation, escalating budgetary stress.
Potential consequences of these food shortages include inflation, fiscal stress, malnutrition, and hunger. Governments of some vulnerable countries may have less ability to cope with these crises than they did before other crises, such as the Arab Spring and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The risk to the food system today may exceed contemporary crises due to depleted country budgets and currency reserves and increased debt levels due to the pandemic. If governments cannot mitigate the shock, households will be forced to dedicate more of their budgets to buying food.
To avoid the worst outcomes, stakeholders worldwide can take steps such as unblocking and de-risking Black Sea logistic routes, reducing trade restrictions, releasing buffer stocks, and providing financial aid to the most impacted areas. It's also crucial to plan ahead to manage future supply-demand shocks and increase the resilience of the food agriculture value chain.
Possible long-term solutions include transforming agriculture sustainably to boost yields, reducing global food waste, optimizing land use for food and biomass production, and accelerating the development and adoption of alternative proteins. As history shows, supply shocks within the food system can lead to inflation, lower fiscal strength, malnutrition, and even political instability and violence.
11. The contribution of insects to food security, livelihoods, and the environmentFood and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
In response to growing population, urbanization, and increased demand for protein sources, insect farming presents a feasible solution to address global food and feed security. Insects are abundant, reproduce quickly, and have high growth and feed conversion rates with a low environmental footprint. They are nutritionally rich with protein, fats, and minerals, and can be cultivated on waste streams, providing a sustainable food production method.
Insects offer environmental, health, and socio-economic benefits. They convert feed to meat more efficiently than traditional livestock and produce fewer greenhouse gases. Insects can also transform bio-waste into high-quality protein that can be used for animal feed and use significantly less water than traditional livestock. In terms of health, insects are high in fatty acids and micronutrients, posing a lower risk of transmitting zoonotic diseases. They also offer socio-economic benefits by providing opportunities for livelihood diversification and entrepreneurship, particularly for underprivileged sections of society.
However, to fully realize this potential, research and development are required in several key areas. These include creating cost-effective and safe insect farming technologies, assessing the nutritional value of various insect species, ensuring food and feed safety, developing legislation governing insects as food and feed, and enhancing consumer acceptance and education about the benefits of entomophagy (the practice of eating insects). By 2030, insect farming is expected to become a common method for feeding over 9 billion people and billions of animals globally.
12. Potential health benefits of edible insectsNational Library of Medicine
The review by Nowakowski, Miller, Xiao, and Wu explores the potential health benefits of edible insects as sustainable alternatives to traditional animal-based foods. Edible insects are rich in essential nutrients like vitamin B12, iron, zinc, fiber, essential amino acids, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and antioxidants, which can contribute to superior health benefits.
Incorporating edible insects, such as crickets, into the human diet could yield environmental and nutritional benefits, including a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, less agricultural use of land and water, and improved prevention and management of chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. They could also enhance immune function.
The paper calls for further research to compare the benefits of whole insects or insect isolates with traditional animal- and plant-based foods. Insects have the potential to serve as meat substitutes or dietary supplements, offering health and environmental benefits. The review seeks to provide further insight into the nutrient composition of edible insects, their potential use as meat substitutes or dietary supplements, their health benefits, and their potential role in exercise performance.
13. Future Population GrowthOur World Data
14. How Much Water Does it Take to Produce 1KG of Beef?Meat The Facts
The concept of "water footprint" was introduced in 2002 by Arjen Hoekstra at the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education. It's a metric used to measure the amount of water consumed and polluted to produce goods and services along their supply chain. The water footprint considers direct and indirect water use, encompassing three types of water sources: blue water (surface or groundwater), grey water (water used to depollute effluents and recycle them), and green water (rainfall).
In terms of livestock, their water footprint is predominantly (93%) green water, i.e., rainfall captured in the soil and evaporated by plants, which would return to the water cycle regardless of farm animals. This green water doesn't reflect the net consumption of water for animal production. Water shortage concerns mainly relate to blue water.
Excluding green water, the scientific community estimates that between 550-700 litres of water (including grey and blue water) are needed to produce 1 kg of beef. According to the French national research agency, INRA, 1 kg of beef would effectively remove around 50 litres of 'real' water (blue water) from the cycle. Similarly, the production of pork meat requires about 450 litres of water, chicken meat requires 300 litres, eggs need 244 litres, and milk requires 86 litres.
However, the interpretation of water footprint data by policymakers needs refinement for a more accurate measurement of consumption. It's crucial to conserve water globally across all sectors, including agriculture and livestock farming.
15. The Water Footprint Assessment ManualWater Footprint Network
The Water Footprint Network is a non-profit, multi-stakeholder network that aims to promote sustainable use of fresh water, a critical resource for the health of both people and the planet. Their vision is of a world where clean fresh water is fairly shared amongst all people, supporting thriving communities and biodiversity.
However, to achieve this vision, more than the Water Footprint Network is needed; it requires a global community of dedicated individuals and organisations. The Network's mission is to support fair and smart water use, and they believe the Water Footprint concept can contribute significantly to this goal.
The Water Footprint Network focuses on five main activities:
Network and Exchange
Knowledge and Data Dissemination
Influencing Policy and Practice
They invite individuals and organisations that can support their mission with their work and expertise to join the network.
The concept of the water footprint was introduced in 2002 by Arjen Hoekstra at the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education. The metric measures the amount of water consumed and polluted to produce goods and services throughout their supply chain. In 2008, Hoekstra and leading global players from different sectors founded the Water Footprint Network, bringing together a diverse group committed to the concept of Water Footprint Assessment to help tackle the challenges of unsustainable water use.