Tuesday 14 June 2016

Are Insects the Food of the Future? A film review

This is the time when 30 Days Wild meets Edinburgh International Film Festival. As has been the case for a few years now, I have a press pass for the festival and will be reviewing films that have a natural history or environmental theme along with a few that take place in rural locations and a couple just for the fun of it. I will also continue blogging my natural history thoughts and sightings for 30 Days Wild so for the next couple of weeks I may be doing more than one blog post a day!

When I lived in Malawi, many people ate insects as a natural part of their diet but I never actually had the chance. I didn't want to just buy insects from the local market without being sure I would know what to do with them and never knowingly had the opportunity elsewhere (and I admit, I didn't seek out the opportunity!). People who did eat Malawian insects assured me that most species were crunchy and tasted nutty.....

From then on, I've been interested in the concept of insects as food, though I've never eaten any (except perhaps for the occasional aphid accidentally eaten on a picnic). One of the main reasons I'm interested in the idea is that insects may be the food of the future, or at least the protein source of the future.

This is the topic covered in Bugs, an excellent documentary showing at Edinburgh International Film Festival. Chef Ben Reade and researcher Josh Evans have, as part of the Nordic Food Lab, spent three years travelling the world documenting how and where insects are eaten as part of traditional diets. They start by focussing on taste and their obvious enjoyment of the insects they eat (including queen termites, honey ants and maggoty cheese) is enough to make you want to try the same. From there they move on to ideas around sustainability, visiting sustainable farms that harvest insects in ways that ensure future supplies won't be affected. They also are concerned about workers rights in the case of one project where the bright lights, used to lure giant grasshoppers, are causing the workers to go blind. In Kenya they discuss how many Kenyans are getting tired of Western style food and wanting to reclaim their traditional sources of food, including insects, which could reduce hunger in that country and also lead to less land pressure from growing maize or grazing cattle. The film makers seemed genuinely interested in addressing these concerns rather than trying to make money from insect protein, they expressed more than a little concern that multinational companies might see the opportunity for making vast sums of money by for example by making insect based burgers to replace beef burgers and this leading to unsustainable farming of insects.

One element of the film was a meal, presented as an airline meal of the future, which quite frankly looked far more appetising than any airline meal I've eaten (not that I've been on a plane for many years now!). Having said that the film did contain a certain 'yuck!' factor, which naturally lead to discussions around people's attitudes to eating insects.

As a vegetarian, often mostly vegan, I would argue that going vegan would be the most effective way to reduce the land needed for agriculture and so most efficiently feed the expanding human population. However, realisitically, I don't see everyone going vegan unless it's forced on us and this film certainly presents a compelling argument that insects could well form part of our future diet.

Bugs is showing at the Edinburgh International Film Festival:

1810, 16 June and 1330, 18 June both at the Odeon.

See a film for 30 Days Wild


Simon Douglas Thompson said...

Population control and less consumption also very necessary

Crafty Green Poet said...

Hi Simon - absolutely.....