The Wild File: Food Production

Your urgent inquiries about the world. Answered.

Feed the World     Photo: Shout

Q. What are we going to eat when the earth can't produce enough food?

A. You mean, like, when are we going to start cracking open tins of Soylent Green? That 1973 sci-fi flick was prescient in several ways, foretelling everything from global warming to globe-altering famines. There are already famines, of course, and we'll probably be exploring outlandish nutrition sources this century as the world adds another 2.5 billion people by 2050. " There just aren't enough resources to support this kind of demand," says Arnold van Huis, a professor of entomology at Holland's Wageningen University and a consultant for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. The average American eats more than 200 pounds of red meat and poultry per year, and each pound of beef requires six pounds of feed to grow. Scientists like van Huis think we can do better. One answer, he argues, is insect farming. Aside from being easy to raise and nutrient rich, insects require a third as much feed as mammalian protein sources. Better yet, they create a fraction of the CO2 and methane emissions. Still, though grasshoppers and larvae are a delicacy in countries like China and Thailand, making them palatable to an American appetite is a tall order. To solve that problem, van Huis has a plan to turn insect protein into something that looks and tastes similar to a hamburger patty.

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