Today and tomorrow research about creepy crawlers is focus of the symposium Edible Insects. Arnold van Huis, emeritus professor of Tropical Entomology is the keynote speaker and was involved in the starting years of edible insect research ten years ago. ‘I retired three years ago’, he says. ‘However, I continue to spend about 50 hours a week researching edible insects.’
What has the research into edible insects at WUR yielded in the past ten years?
'A great deal of knowledge. And it has become an important topic in both academic circles and society. Our book Edible insects: future prospects for food and feed security was released in 2013 and was downloaded 2.3 million times after its presentation at a conference in Rome. At this moment it has been downloaded seven million times.
'Consumer behaviour is slowly changing. In 1997, I gave a lecture in which I discussed edible insects for the first time. When I asked who had heard of edible insects, only a few people raised their hands. When I ask that now, everyone is familiar with insects as a source of food and half of them have eaten insects before.'
What is the greatest challenge for the upcoming ten years?
'Primarily, ensuring that legislation is adapted to current knowledge. The black soldier fly is suitable as a source of protein for livestock and fish feed. The fly is bred using manure and waste products, but that is not permitted in European legislation. It shows that the EU is not yet prepared for this.
'Another example is a concept that stems from the BSE crisis (mad cow disease). At the time, it was decided that animals could not be fed to livestock. For this reason, insects cannot currently be fed to chickens or pigs, but they can be used to feed pets and since recently to aqua culture. I expect that this will change in the next year and that insects will be permitted to be used as chicken feed. Businesses are already responding to that change by investing in the large-scale production of insects. Insects for human consumption is a more problematic situation. The legislation for that is even stricter.'
Will we really be doing another ten years of research into edible insects?
'Yes, we actually only started our own project in 2010. It was about isolating proteins from insects. It was one of the first researches about edible insects worldwide.'
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From May to August, edible insects will undoubtedly be a topic of discussion again during the 100 years WUR events. Those months are dedicated to the topic of Food.
Check the website for more information about symposium Edible Insects.