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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

World Government Summit: Making insects 'tastier' could alleviate global hunger

Experts look low down the food chain in the hunt for new sources of protein

Chocolate containing insects at the stand of the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology Nairobi during the last day of the International Green Week IGW in Berlin, Germany, 28 January 2018. Clemens Bilan / EPA
Chocolate containing insects at the stand of the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology Nairobi during the last day of the International Green Week IGW in Berlin, Germany, 28 January 2018. Clemens Bilan / EPA

Making insects more palatable for human consumption could help to tackle food shortages at a time when the growing global population is putting unprecedented pressure on traditional sources of protein.

Speaking at the World Government Summit in Dubai, experts said governments have a huge role to play in managing new avenues of agriculture and steer populations away from less sustainable, traditional models of food supply.

And there are many ways that insects - which are plentiful and often the source of good protein - could be either added to supplies of fish and chicken, or eaten directly.

“There are a mind boggling number of opportunities - as there are thousands of different species,” said Kees Aarts, chief executive officer of Protix, a Dutch company developing smart technologies to efficiently convert end-of-life organic waste into valuable nutrients.

“In nature, many animals feed on insects naturally so there is huge potential for farming in this area, as does our own consumption.

“There are a lot of diverse, tasty and colourful insect dishes that could be added to our plates.”

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According to the World Health Organisation, after steadily declining for over a decade, global hunger is on the rise again, affecting 815 million people in 2016, or 11 per cent of the global population.

The increase of 38 million more people than the previous year is largely due to violent conflicts and climate-related shocks, according to The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017.

Although already active in Asia, Protix is looking to expand into the US market, one of the largest consumers of meat.

“This consumption is having a huge environmental impact,” said Mr Aarts.

“Education can reduce the amount of meat consumption, and increase the use of alternative protein sources – such as insects.

“The best thing people can do to help make a difference is become curious about where their protein comes from, and how they can eat more healthily.

“Governments play a pivotal role in food safety issues and we’ve set out to professionalise the new growing insect industry with their help.”