july 28, 2015 - Expo 2015

White Book on Edible Insect presented at the European Union Pavilion A sustainable solution to food needs in the future

The presentation of the White Book on edible insects took place on July 27th at the presence of Giancarlo Caratti di Lanzacco, Deputy Commissioner General to the World Exhibition Expo2015, and Claudia Sorlini, President of the Scientific Committee for Expo 2015. This project is promoted by Andrea Mascaretti, Head of the International Research, Innovation and Food Security of Società Umanitaria), and was coordinated by a pool of scientific experts, such as Ettore Capri and Maura Calliera (Opera Research Center for Sustainability of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Piacenza), Mario Colombo (Science Department for Food, Nutrition and Environment at the University of Milan) and Roberto Valvassori (Department of Biotechnology and Life Sciences of the University of Insubria). This project stems from a practical fact: the need to ensure food security for a world population which, in 2050, is expected to be of more than 9 billion people, created an increasing interest for the use of insects as a source of animal protein for human beings and animals. Hunger, which afflicts one-fifth of the population in developing countries, is a major obstacle to the progress of individuals and society. Without an appropriate intervention, malnutrition, which results in deaths and illnesses, will be perpetuated from generation to generation. What emerges from “The White Book on edible insects” project is that there is currently a low level of attention on this subject, that until now it has been confined to negligible space and that we risk losing the opportunities offered by research and technological development on this matter. This project was developed in a multidisciplinary way by more than 200 experts from universities, research centers and other institutions. Insects are a rich source of nutrients and, in fact, their protein content is very high, in many cases exceeding 60% of their dry weight (and for many species, we talk about proteins of high biological value, as highly digestible and with a content of essential amino acids which varies from 46% to 96%); the fat content, i.e. of energy, varies greatly from species to species and is based on the insects diet (on average between 14% and 31%); not to be neglected is the fiber content (approximately 10% of the dry weight of the insect) and that of minerals and vitamins. These nutritional characteristics make insects an interesting alternative source of protein, compatible for the preparation of food for human and animal use. The breeding of insects presents numerous other positive aspects among which: the best conversion ratio (understood as the efficiency of food transformation in body weight). For example it was estimated that the Orthoptera Grillide Acheta domesticus is able to convert more than 90% of the food ingested in the body biomass resulting twice more efficient than chickens, at least four times more than pigs, and twelve times more than cows; the potential to be raised on food products that do not compete with human nutrition (waste/wastewater), reducing the problem of waste disposal and reducing the bacterial load; low emissions of greenhouse gases and ammonia; the reduced space required for their breeding; low consumption of drinking water. Edible insects may represent in the future an excellent source of proteins to ensure food self-sufficiency in many developing countries through micro-family farms and small processing centers for the production of protein flours for human and animal use. As significant alternative sources of proteins, for the preparation of food for animals, edible insects may have a market similar to that of fish and soy flours that today are the main components used in the formulas of aquaculture and livestock food: saving thus energy and land and limiting our dependence from non-European markets. The reduced time of growth and high efficiency of conversion into animal protein would significantly reduce the environmental impact. The European food industry will ensure a certified use of products derived from insects, reared and fed according to determined quality standards, to meet the growing domestic and foreign markets demand of insect-derived foods. In addition, the European feed industry, with a production of about 153 million ton a year, represents about 15% of the global market of animal nutrition. The strategic supply of proteins is crucial and is partially covered by soybeans whose production in Europe is not sufficient and, in general, not sustainable. So why not produce more protein sources in Europe? According to the FAO to develop sustainable food, one may resort to the use of insects as raw materials for the human diet and the preparation of animal feed. Edible insects therefore will not solve the problem of right and access to food but have a great potential and, as important alternative sources of proteins and other nutrients, can help us improve the food and nutritional security of the poorest and most disadvantaged areas of the Planet. The White Book on edible insects represents an opportunity to share, with European Institutions and the single EU member states, the information and data collected, facilitate their dissemination, and debate on critical and innovative elements emerged from this common expertise in order to support, with adequate investments, the European research network and fill in the regulation gaps that even today, in Europe and in the world, prevent the development of industrial breeding of edible insects.