Science - January 14, 2011

Insect meat is hot news

Insects are in. They are so hot that as many as three international camera crews came to film a lecture on eating insects in the Forum on Wednesday.

Arnold van Huis being interviewed by Reuters.
Teams from press agencies Reuters,  AFP and the German ZDF turned the second lecture from the series 'Insect and Society' into a sort of media event. 'Well, this sure is something', says a beaming Professor Arnold van Huis. He was one of the two speakers who pondered the issue: Will insects be the meat of the future?
Van Huis has spent more than ten years trying to get these 'mini livestock' onto the Dutch menu. He explains the media attention: 'We are involved in finding food under a change in the paradigm. We finally realize that we need to look elsewhere. Seventy percent of the agricultural area is already being used for meat production. Things will run aground as the population keeps growing. Although we have always viewed eating insects as strange and primitive, this attitude is changing slowly to: in fact, why not? It's become a sort of an eye-opener.'
Van Huis is used to such media attention. 'I'm interviewed almost every week by press from all over the world. Especially after we set up a website for the FAO.' The local and foreign press (including Science) have also given a lot of attention in the past two weeks to PhD student Dennis Ooninck's research project about environmental aspects of insect meat. In the meantime, entrepreneurs have also jumped on the bandwagon. The Netherlands now has three insect breeders working closely together. Wholesaler Sligro already has the first insect products in its assortment.
According to Jac Niessen, press officer  of Wageningen UR, the television crews were present chiefly to film people eating insects. 'A good deal of filming was directed at capturing the expressions of people when they eat insects.' Niessen is referring to the interlude between the two talks when students of the Wageningen vocational institute Rijn Ijssel served up three different insect snacks: bonbons, mealworm snacks and grasshopper spring rolls. That resulted in predictable and hilarious facial expressions here and there. The snacks were prepared by Rijn Ijssel's cook, Henk van Gurp. The insects were provided by the company Kreca Voedseldieren in Ermelo.

ZDF was present during the preparation of the snacks in the afternoon. The German film crew of 3Sat, which produces the daily science programme Nano, comprised five people when it came to Wageningen. Its programme about eating insects is scheduled for broadcasting on 10 March. It's not known yet when Reuters and AFP will feature their Wageningen stories. The Entomology lecture series still has six episodes to go and will end on 23 February with a presentation from well-known biologist and writer Midas Dekkers. The complete programme is available in Dutch.