It is widely accepted that by 2050 the world will host 9 billion people. To accomodate this number, current food production will need to almost double. Land is scarce and expanding the area devoted to farming is rarely a viable or sustainable option. Oceans are overfished and climate change and related water shortages could have profound implications for food production. To meet the food and nutrition challenges of today – there are nearly 1 billion chronically hungry people worldwide – and tomorrow, what we eat and how we produce it needs to be re-evaluated. Inefficiencies need to be rectified and food waste reduced. We need to find new ways of growing food.
Edible insects have always been a part of human diets, but in some societies there is a degree of distaste for their consumption. Although the majority of edible insects are gathered from forest habitats, innovation in mass-rearing systems has begun in many countries. Insects offer a significant opportunity to merge traditional knowledge and modern science in both developed and developing countries.
This publication has its beginnings in an effort in FAO’s Forestry Department to recognize the traditional practices of gathering insects for food and income, and to document the related ecological impacts on forest habitats. Thereafter, FAO embraced the opportunity to collaborate with the Laboratory of Entomology at Wageningen University in the Netherlands – an institution at the forefront of fundamental and applied research on insects as food and feed. This combined effort has since gained momentum and is unfolding into a broad-based effort at FAO to examine the multiple dimensions of insect gathering and rearing as a viable option for alleviating food insecurity.
This book draws on a wide range of scientific research on the contribution that insects make to ecosystems, diets, food security and livelihoods in both developed and developing countries. We hope that it will help raise the profile of insects as sources of food and feed in national and international food agencies. We also hope that it attracts the attention of farmers, the media, the public at large and decision-makers in governments, multilateral and bilateral donor agencies, investment firms, research centres, aid agencies and the food and feed industries. Above all, it is our hope that this publication will raise awareness of the many valuable roles that insects play in sustaining nature and human life and will also serve to document the contribution insects already make to diversifying diets and improving food security.