How to Overcome Our Disgust to Eat Insects?

The population of our planet is increasing extremely fast. In 2000 approximately 6.143 billions of people lived on Earth, while today, in 2020, the population has reached a level of 7.7 billions people (Worldometers, 2020). While it proves the dominance of our species, such population outburst also become a cause of concern. For instance, a group of Australian researchers mentions overpopulation as one of the most dangerous threats to humankind existence, since people consume too much. Overconsumption results in loss of biodiversity and shortage of resources, summoning one of the four horsemen, whose name is Famine, or simply put, hunger.

Many people tend to think, that it is all exaggeration, and they are at some point right. According to a research by University of Edinburgh, humanity consumes 10 per cent more food than it actually needs. However, there is no equality on this planet: the UN report says that today more than 820 million people worldwide face the problem of hunger, mostly in Asian and African countries. So, the problem of hunger is already a present reality. The future prospects are even worse taking into account population growth rate and the carrying capacity of Earth. Humanity has to find a solution to save the civilization and preserve the planet. But how?

A possible solution could be found in the food habits of some ethnicities. While most of people are going sue a restaurant if there is a bug in a dish, for 2 billion of people it is just a traditional diet (Huis & others, 2013). Entomophagy iscommon within ethnic groups from Asia, Africa and both Americas. In Ghana people eat termites, in China crickets and grasshoppers are usually consumed. Insects as food are very nutritious and healthy: the proteins that insects contain are on the same level as in fish, chicken and beef. Moreover, it pretty easy to farminsects on a big scale, while their farming is characterized by low environmental impact. Insects doesn’t require much space: they also can live under all conditions. It is easy to feed them: for instance, crickets need only 2 kilos of feed for every kilo of bodyweight gain (Huis & others, 2013). All in all, the facts mentioned above shows that entomophagy is very sustainable practice (Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), 2015).

However, eating insects it is not wide-spread in the western countries due to the myths and stereotypes about insects as food and of course because of disgust. People are not sure about insect nutrition, while entomophagy is considered as something alien and disgusting. It means that we need to change such perception: we have to fight the disgust factor and break down the myths in order to reduce our environmental impact. But how to overcome these factors?

First of all, eating insects should become a social norm. Sometimes we underestimate how strong the impact of social norms on our behavior is. In fact, human is biologically inclined to conformity. The studies shows thatwith positive social models disgust can be reduced. Especially relevant it is for children, because people that try different foods with higher probability will enjoy it when they are younger. These positive social models can be introduced to children through parents and school teachers. So far parents in most cases can’t become a positive model, since they don’t eat insects themselves, that is why it is more relevant for the future generations (Collins & McDade,2019).

Thus, we should start from transforming education to make teachers bringing this positive food model. A teacher should explain to pupilswhat an insect is. Words should be supported by a visual exposure, for which zoos and museums can be used. Then it comes to the most important part: explaining why insects are as good and nutritious as other foods and that there is no reason to feel disgust. Again, words should be supported by a personal example of a teacher and a taste exposure.

However, formal education is not enough. According to UNESCO, the success of education for sustainable development depends not only on formal education, but also on non-formal and informal education (Huis & others, 2013). Non-formal educationincludes the one provided by nature centers and private companies. A good example in the context of non-formal education is so-called bug banquets which combines an educational talk with degustation of insects. Informal education, which includes different media sources, looks more promising, taking into account the prevalence of media nowadays. Discussing eating insects on TV shows is one of the ways to use media in order to change people’s mindset. Another way is to show insect eating characters in the TV-series. It works through the effect of celebrity endorsement, since famous people, even if they are fictional characters, have an ability to influence others (Safi & others, 2018). As a result, all types of education will affect not only children, but also adults, however for the last ones it will be less efficient.

All in all, it is impossible to immediately change human’s attitude to insects as a source of food, however it is feasible, if we do it gradually, step by step. We should start from the youth, because they are more flexible. Education in all its’ forms is a key instrument for that.

References

Collins, Catherine Matilda; McDade, Harry (2019). How Might We Overcome ‘Western’ Resistance to Eating Insects?. 10.5772/intechopen.88245.

Cox, Lisa (2020). Ten threats to humanity’s survival identified in Australian report calling for action. The Guardian [Internet], 21 April. Available from:https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/22/ten-threats-to-humanitys-survival-identified-in-australian-report-calling-for-action [Assessed 24th June 2020].

Huis, Arnold van; Itterbeeck, Joost van; Klunder, Harmke; Mertens, Esther; Halloran, Afton; Muir, Giulia; Vantomme, Paul (2013). Edible insects: future prospects for food and feed security. Food and agriculture organization of the United Nations. [Internet]. Available from: http://www.fao.org/3/i3253e/i3253e.pdf [Assessed 24th June 2020].

Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) (2015). Seven reasons to eat insects. ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 June [Internet]. Available from: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150609124315.htm [Assessed 24th June 2020].

Ramos‐Elorduy, Julieta B. (1997). The importance of edible insects in the nutrition and economy of people of the rural areas of Mexico, Ecology of Food and Nutrition, 36 (5), p. 347-366

Safi, Hani; Azouri, Marwan; Azouri, Andre (2018). The effect of celebrity endorsement on consumer behavior: Case of the Lebanese jewelry industry. Arab Economic and Business Journal, 13, p. 190-196.

University of Edinburgh (2017). Fifth of world’s food lost to over-eating and waste, study finds. 21 February [Internet]. Available from: https://phys.org/news/2017-02-world-food-lost-over-eating.html [Assessed 24th June 2020].

Worldometers. World Population by Year [Internet].Available from: https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/world-population-by-year/ [Assessed 24th June 2020].

World Health Organization (WHO) (2019). World hunger is still not going down after three years and obesity is still growing – UN report. WHO. 15 July. [Internet].Available from: https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/15-07-2019-world-hunger-is-still-not-going-down-after-three-years-and-obesity-is-still-growing-un-report [Assessed 24th June 2020].

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