Why is a Sustainable diet important? And how can insects play a role in achieving sustainability.

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“Sustainable diets are those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally accepted, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritional adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural”. (FAO, 2010b) 

With the Earth’s population predicted to grow to 9 billion by 2050 the current food production will need to almost double. We are already in a position where viable farming land is scarce and expanding this area is not a sustainable option. None of us want to see the clear felling of the Amazon rainforest or Sumatran rainforests, which are predicted to completely disappear in the next 20 years. Oceans are overfished with an estimated 200 species going extinct every 24 hours. These factors along with Climate change and associated water shortages could have profound implication on our future food production. Even today we struggle as a global community to meet our food and nutrition needs. There are nearly 1 billion chronically hungry people worldwide. What we eat in the future and how we produce it needs to be re-evaluated. Inefficiencies need to be rectified and food waste reduced. We need to find new more sustainable ways of growing food.

(Ruas Utama, Sumatra, Indonisia. Photo © Eyes of the Forest / WWF-Indonesia)

One option that helps address many of these issues including greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use and food waste repurposing are Insects. Insects are often considered a nuisance to humans and pests to crops and livestock. However, this is far from the truth. Insects play a fundamental role in nature, pollinating plants, recycling waste and reducing environmental pollution. They can also provide food at low environmental cost. Many people around the world already eat insects out of choice, largely because of the palatability of the insects and their established place in local food cultures. However, these facts and benefits are largely unknown to the public.

Edible insects have always been a part of human diets, however, in western society there is generally 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. Canada is at the forefront of this development. Specifically, companies like Enterra Feed Corporation and Entomo Farms whom already commercially produce Black soldier fly larvae and crickets (respectively) for both human and livestock consumption. Insects offer a significant opportunity to merge traditional knowledge and modern science in both developed and developing countries.

 Repurposed commercial food waste at Enterra Feed Corporation used to raise BSFL

Black Soldier Fly Larvae at Enterra Feed Corporation

Enterra Feed Corporation – Langley BC, Canada