The United Nations has warned that the world could face a drastic food shortage in 2013. Climate change, population growth and increased demand from developing countries are straining world food production capacity to breaking point. The United States alone has seen its grain reserves drop to a record low of 6.5%, following extreme heat waves and droughts in 2012. Extremely hot summers in Russia, floods in South East Asia, droughts in China and various natural disasters across the world have been exacerbating disruptions in food production over recent years. We simply cannot keep up the supply to the ever increasing demand.
If population growth expectations and increased demand forecasts are realised in the next decade we will have to completely change our consumption patterns or face famine and war for precious land and food resources. Already vast tracts of arable land in developing countries have been bought up by companies from developed countries who have envisioned the future heighted demand for food. This modern day land grab is a huge threat to stability in developing countries. As populations get hungrier there is little reassurance that they will be content to see foreign interests exporting locally produced food while they themselves can’t afford a square meal. The potential for discontent and anger is massive.
What can be done to satisfy future food demand? Scientists across the world have stepped up their efforts to try to solve this most pressing of questions. Proposals to increase the production of genetically modified plants and even grow ‘meat’ in laboratories using stem cells offer some hope.
Perhaps however, one of the more interesting solutions builds on existing consumption practice. Researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands believe they might be able to offer one solution to our increased demand for meat like products rich in protein: insects. In comparison to cattle insects cost less to raise, consume less water, need less space, are abundant and offer a fantastic nutritional alternative than raising pollutant generating cattle on scarce land. In addition to the practicalities afforded to insect husbandry the estimated 1400 varieties of edible insects would offer even the most adventurous foodie a near-never ending supply of new culinary challenges! While it might sound adversarial to our sensitive palates insects have always been a major component to the diet of many people in the world. Considering the abattoir floors and intensive farming practices where most of our meat comes from an insect burger really is not that bad!