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How to feed a growing world

What are the most palatable ways of solving the world’s food crisis?

Ever since October 2011, when it was estimated that the global population had passed seven billion people, discussions have raged about how the world will cope. With food prices already rising amid deeper environmental concerns, the United Nations and governments worldwide are particularly preoccupied with how we will feed ourselves. An increasing population is overwhelmingly viewed as a matter of more mouths to feed rather than a potential source of solutions. So while feeding the world seems a straightforward technical issue of implementing the most efficient and effective farming practices, a host of extraneous social, political, cultural, even ethical issues seem to thwart the implementation of solutions. The angst-ridden discussion about the pros and cons of growing genetically modified crops is only one example. Meanwhile, Western societies seem disillusioned with the gains of industrialised food production. Factory farming and processed foods are demonised; local, organic, natural are celebrated.

One solution is to rethink what we eat completely. With some food futurologists and nutritionists predicting meat will become a luxury even in the West, one proposal to ‘fill the meat gap’ is eating insects. This is no longer a marginal idea, a gross bush-tucker trial from TV’s I’m a Celebrity… jungle. The Dutch government recently invested a million euros into research into getting insects into mainstream diets. British food experts are taking seriously research from Wageningen University that shows insects provide as much nutritional value as ordinary meat. There is of course a ‘yuk factor’ to consider, but those who don’t relish the prospect of crunching through a bug sandwich are assured that crickets and grasshoppers can be ground down to be used in burgers and so on. And after all, a large number of the world’s population already eat insects as a regular part of their diet: caterpillars and locusts are popular in Africa, crickets are eaten in Thailand and we’ve all seen the HSBC advert in which a Cambodian farmer catches flying insects to keep them off his crops, then cooks and sells them. Have Europeans something to learn from the developing world, or are such dietary choices the product of poverty rather than culinary experimentation?

Why do most of us find the eating of insects repulsive, but don’t flinch when offered fish eggs, liver, kidney, snails? Might not science and modern-farming methods help us go beyond bug-burgers or should we all just become less squeamish? What are the most palatable ways of solving the world’s food crisis?

Nibbling samples of innovative food solutions will be available to try before the discussion.


Louise Bolotin | talks
Mr Rob Lyons | talks | www
Dr Angelica Michelis | talks
Dr Carol Wagstaff | talks
Craig Fairnington | talks


Date and Time:

29 October 2012 at 6:45 pm


2 hours



Cross Street Chapel
Cross Street
M2 1NL

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Organised by:

Institute of Ideas
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