Insects for Dinner?

Ecological entomologist Marcel Dicke gave a speech at the Ted Conference on Monday on why Americans should eat insects.

Dicke asked the members of the audience that have eaten insects to raise their hands, and only a few did. He said this is not a good representation of the rest of the world, because 80 percent of the world eats insects, and Americans are the minority because they do not.

Dicke gave a few reasons why Americans should eat insects. He said insects do many things for the environment and economy. He said they pollinate crops, remove animal manure, control pests, and are food for many small animals.

People have been eating insects without knowing it, Dicke said. He said because insects are at the bottom of the food chain, bigger animals eat the animals that eat insects, and eventually humans consume insects along with other animals at the bottom of the food chain. Dicke said people are consuming insects from processed foods and natural dyes such as cochineal.

Dicke said that because the population is estimated to increase to nine billion by 2050, it would not be economically savvy to eat the amount of meat that Americans are currently consuming.

Dicke then talked about health. He said, “Pigs are quite like us…pigs also share diseases with us. And a pig disease, a pig virus, and a human virus can both proliferate, and…combine and produce a new virus. This happened in the Netherlands in the 1990s during the classical swine fever outbreak.” He then said that Americans should eat insects to avoid viruses, because they are so distant from humans, it is unlikely that diseases will be transmitted or created. Dicke said another benefit of insects is that their manure releases less ammonia and greenhouse gases per kilogram than meat.

Eighty percent of the world enjoys insects as delicacies, so Dicke said there is no reason why Americans should not do the same. He said Americans should be more open-minded to the idea of eating insects. He said eating insects is inevitable, so Americans should start warming up to the idea now. 

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