The Population Reference Bureau has estimated that the Earth’s population will reach the 10 billion mark by 2053. This represents a 33% increase compared to the world’s population today. A fact that cannot fail to raise questions about how we feed the planet. Likewise, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation (FAO) estimates that the demand for meat will rise by 200 million tonnes between 2010 and 2050.
This means practically doubling production volumes. But the raising of livestock already takes up 70% of farmland and 9% of fresh water. So faced with this new paradigm, how are we going to feed ourselves in 2050? SIAL put the question to Arnold Van Huis, a Professor of Tropical Entomology at the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands. The solution? It’s time to make room on our plates for insects. Interview.
Introducing Arnold Van Huis: Currently a Research Professor in Tropical Entomology at the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands, he oversees the “Sustainable Production of Insect Proteins for Human Consumption” research programme (SUPRO2) which was set up by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality. This programme examines the nutritional and environmental aspects of entomophagy (the consumption of insects by human beings).
SIAL: The FAO’s report “Edible insects. Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security” (which you co-authored) describes edible insects as the new philosopher’s stone for solving the food problems of the future. Why?
The rearing of livestock already takes up 70% of agricultural land and the demand for meat is only going to increase (from 75% to 90%). This means that in the future, the amount of land available will no longer be enough. Not only that, livestock rearing is responsible for 18% of the world’s greenhouse emissions. It accounts for 80% of agricultural sector emissions. And 65% of global ammonia emissions are produced by livestock rearing. From pollution to deforestation (livestock rearing is currently the main cause of the destruction of the forest in the Amazon), the problems associated with the production of livestock leave us with no option but to find alternative sources of protein. The farming of edible insects is one such alternative - both in terms of reducing the impact on the environment and meeting human and animal consumption needs. It is currently thought to be a viable strategy that could contribute to food security. As an example, insects can be used to replace fishmeal - as a feed ingredient - especially in the aquaculture sector.