In Perspective: The U.N. is Out of Touch

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Everyone in the agriculture industry knows they have a huge challenge facing them. As the world’s population increases, producing enough food to feed everyone will be strained. New technologies and methods of producing food will need to be developed to keep up with demand.

The United Nations thinks it has the answer—insects. The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization issued a report in May saying since many people eat insects in Asia and Africa, the rest of the world needs to consider farming insects for food to meet the increasing demand.

“Around the world, humans eat more than 1,900 species of insects, mostly in Africa and Asia. In fact, estimates suggest 2 billion people currently eat insects. Studies suggest the nutritional value of some insects contain enough protein to rank with lean ground beef while having less fat per gram,” according to the report.

The report goes on to suggest that insect farming is mainly done with family-run businesses. Developing insect production on a commercial, industrial scale would require automation processes that would be expensive.

I’m sure the U.N. has the best of intentions when it issued this report. Researchers developed the report from behind desks from a clinical perspective and looked at the data, but they forgot the human, emotional factor when it comes to food. Most people would prefer not to eat insects if given a choice. Africa and Asia contain large populations of extremely poor people. Eating insects is a way to survive for them. The U.N. is not going to get mainstream America to eat insects anytime soon despite the fact that the U.N. report also touted eating insects would be a way to fight obesity and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Food is a choice based on taste and emotions. Take the example of buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken being smuggled into Gaza from Egypt. Media reported the phenomenon in mid-May as demand for fast food and fried chicken boomed in Gaza. One food delivery service that opened in Gaza a few years ago saw an opportunity to bring the American product to Gazans and today, competition has made the chicken much more affordable.

“Bringing some meals like these would cost $200 or more three years ago, but now they don’t even cost $20,” tunnel operator Abu Iyad told the Monitor newspaper.

Although it may take three hours to deliver the chicken, which is not exactly fast food, customers are not complaining. Eating KFC “has been a dream” Rafat Shororo told the Monitor.

In England, schools have another problem—junk food smuggling. Although schools promote healthy eating, it has created a black market for junk food. Children are refusing to give up their eating habits and instead have been smuggling, not guns or drugs, but chocolate, potato chips and carbonated beverages. The children are buying the contraband in bulk and taking it to school to sell.

These examples show how tastes for food drive demand, whether the food items are legal or not. So, it’s really hard to believe that there will ever be a market for eating insects.

Perhaps if the insects are fried or sugar-coated they might gain appeal, but the idea of eating insects is not appetizing to many, at least in the industrialized world. The U.N.’s suggestion is not likely to take off any time soon and shows just how out of touch it is with how food choices are made.

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