If anyone’s looking for something creative to do with the billions of cicadas that will swarm the eastern U.S. this summer, the United Nations recommends eating them. In a new study published on Monday, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said we should all be eating more insects, and that insects already “form part of the traditional diets of at least 2 billion people.”
Most of those 2 billion entomophages (people who eat insects) reside in Africa, Asia and Latin America, the FAO said. Wider consumption of insects could, it argued, lead to more food stability and security. Urbanization and population growth, the FAO said, means that by 2030 more than 9 billion people will need to be fed, which will in turn perpetuate the problems of deforestation and overgrazing by livestock. And since insects account for “more than half” of all known species on this planet, well, why not?
In a press statement, the director of the FAO’s Forest Economic Policy and Products Division, Eva Muller, said it wasn't saying everyone should switch to eating bugs. “We are saying that insects are just one resource provided by forests, and insects are pretty much untapped for their potential for food, and especially for feed,” Muller explained. Further, insects don’t consume as much food per their body weight as other food resources do.
Insects can also feed on waste products, and the FAO also said that “it is widely understood by scientists that insects are so biologically different from mammals that it is highly unlikely that insect diseases could be transmitted to humans.”
Insects are already considered normal to consume in countries like Thailand, where fried bugs are often served with beer; Ghana, where it’s considered necessary for survival; and Mexico and China, where certain species are considered delicacies.
In developed countries, entomophagy is considered niche, weird or taboo. The FAO noted that most markets for edible bugs in first-world countries are small, due to the fact that most people “view entomophagy with disgust and associate eating insects with primitive behavior.”
PETA could not immediately be reached for comment.