Eat insects for fun, not to help the environment

As the world searches for a more sustainable future for its growing population, there is increasing interest in getting more people to eat insects. Earlier this month, former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan told The Guardian newspaper that “eating insects is good for the environment and balanced diets”. This backed the view of a widely cited 2010 report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization that stressed insects’ “exceptional nutritional benefits” and “fewer negative environmental impacts” when compared with “many mainstream foods” (see go.nature.com/6ln9dw).

So far, there is little sign that these messages are being heeded. Turning Westerners into insectivores has joined the long list of challenges that require behaviour change. As such, it holds broader lessons for other attempts to convert people to more sustainable lifestyles, and is a useful case study.

Many people already eat insects. There is evidence that insects have been a continuous part of our diet since the early hominins, and they are still eaten widely in south and east Asia, Africa, and South and Central America. (Although the practice is declining in some places as people switch to ‘aspirational’ Western lifestyles.)

 

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