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1st International Conference
14-17 May 2014, Wageningen (Ede),
Insects to feed the world
Insects to Feed the World Conference
Document compiled by
Senior Forestry Officer
Insects for Food and Feed Programme
Non-Wood Forest Products Programme
Forestry Department FAO
00153 Rome, Italy
Insects for Food and Feed: http://www.fao.org/forestry/edibleinsects/en/
Arnold van Huis
Laboratory of Entomology
Joost van Itterbeeck
Laboratory of Entomology
Student Laboratory of Entomology
Wageningen University and Research Centre
Wageningen, The Netherlands
Cover Photograph: Participants attending a Plenary session during the Conference (Photo Paul
Table of Contents
Objectives of the conference .................................................................................. III
Summary notes from the sessions.........................................................................VI
as a separate downloadable file, containing:
1) Conference Programme
2) List of abstracts of presentations and of the posters
3) List of Participants
Objectives of the conference
The overall objective of the conference was to lay the foundations for continued
dialogue, further research, evidence-based policy making and investments to
promote the use of insects as human food and as animal feed in the context of food
and feed security.
More specifically, the objectives of the conference were to:
create global awareness for this alternative food and feed source;
map the state of the art and identify knowledge gaps on key topics;
identify constraints in the development of the insect food/feed sectors;
promote interaction among stakeholders in the insect value chains;
establish inter-disciplinary networks among relevant partners;
contribute to standardizing methodologies for analysing nutritional composition of
promote the elaboration of (inter)national statistical data on production and trade in
insect products for food and feed;
formulate recommendations to increase the impact of using insects as a food and
The conference “Insects to feed the world” convened from 14-17 May 2014 at Conference
centre De Reehorst in Ede (Wageningen), the Netherlands. The conference was jointly
organized by Wageningen University and Research Centre (WUR) and the United Nations
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and received support from the Government of the
Netherlands, civil society groups and from private companies active in this emerging sector.
The conference brought together for the first time the largest assembly to date of stakeholders
from all over the world to consider key aspects of collection, production, processing,
nutrition, marketing and consumption related to insects in a global multi-stakeholder
dialogue. The conference marked an important step towards mobilizing the potential of
insects as human food and animal feed to contribute to global food security and in particular
to exchange information on the feasibility of mass rearing of insects to increase the
availability of animal proteins in a more sustainable way.
This conference was an outcome of the joint collaboration between FAO and WUR and is
part of the activities implemented under the FAO-WUR Memorandum of Understanding
between both parties on Edible Insects, ongoing since 2008. The conference is a direct follow
up to the recommendations from the FAO Expert Meeting on Edible Insects (held at FAO
HQ, January 2012) and to the FAO-WUR joint publication “Edible insects: Future prospects
for food and feed security”, published by FAO as Forestry Paper 171 (May 2013).
About 450 people from 45 countries around the world attended the conference. Participation
at the conference was based on a paid registration fee. The large number of participants
coming from all continents and the wide media attention received before, during and after the
conference reflects the global interest in edible insects. The participants represented research
institutions and universities, private companies, international organizations, civil society and
governmental agencies in the agriculture, food, feed and health sectors. The use of insects as
food and feed proved to be very relevant, mainly due to the rising costs of major protein
sources for animal feed (like fish and soybean meal), food and feed insecurity, environmental
pressure, population growth and the increasing demand for animal protein (meat, fish, dairy
products, eggs, etc..) among the world’s rapidly growing middle classes.
The conference programme included thematic sessions on: harvesting from nature;
production of insects as food and feed; food safety, legislation and policy; insects as feed:
specific production systems; nutrition, processing, consumer attitudes and gastronomy;
environmental issues; and outreach and communication. Participants from multiple disciplines
presented and discussed their work through eight plenary and 18 parallel sessions, which were
supported by three poster sessions, with a total of 112 presentations and 54 posters. The
Conference further offered 15 booths exhibiting work by private companies, international
agencies and civil society groups. Two field excursions were available to the participants; one
at the Entomology and Food and Feed testing facilities of Wageningen University to show the
present status of insect-related research and one to the insects rearing and processing hub in
the province of North Brabant. The Agenda of the Conference, Abstracts of presentations and
posters, and the List of Participants is given in the annex.
Research and business activities around the topic of insects for food and feed have increased
spectacularly over the last years and in view of the fast growing body of scientific literature
and the global interest in this topic, the Wageningen Academic Publishers decided to create a
new online-only, peer-reviewed scientific journal: the Journal of Insects as Food and Feed
with its first volume to be published in 2015 and to include papers presented at the
In summary, the conference concluded the following:
The conference clearly highlighted the rapidly growing and dynamic nature of using
insects for food and feed worldwide, and revealed far more of the potential and current
activities around using insects and their products, including for health care as well as
for providing raw materials for the non-food sectors.
The potential of insects for human food and animal feed is highly relevant in view of:
their good nutritional quality; human population growth, and corresponding higher
demands for animal proteins in the form of meat and fish; the fast rising costs and
quantities needed of major protein sources (for example fishmeal and soy) to feed the
growing number of farmed animals; and the high environmental impact of our current
high meat consumption food habits and animal farming practices that use feed grains
that could be directly consumed by humans.
A wide range of socio-economic opportunities based on using insects are accessible at
any scale of production both in developed and developing countries. These include
creation of jobs, enterprise development, food and animal feed production, organic
waste processing and increased global trade.
Major challenges include: further awareness-raising with the general public to
promote insects as healthy food and feed for animals; influencing policy makers to
approve insect inclusive food and feed legislations; further research efforts to provide
and expand with validated data the available scientific evidence and benefits of using
insects in the food and feed chains.
There remains a wide gap between activities being conducted, largely for food in
developing countries and the high-tech, large scale industrial initiatives focussing on
feed for livestock and aquaculture, primarily in developed countries.
The FAO and WUR were readily recognized and appreciated for providing global
leadership and support in this fast unfolding sector.
Participants exploring the Conference booths and posters while enjoying insect based meals (photos:
Summary notes from the sessions
Key messages from each session were captured by session hosts and organizers and relayed
into the closing plenary presentation on Conclusions and Recommendations of the
Conference. This section is a compilation of the thematic sessions in chronological order as
prepared by the conference organizers. As such it provides an overview of the messages
throughout the conference, but does not constitute a joint conclusion by the participants.
Harvesting from Nature
Harvesting insects from natural resources was given special attention through key note
presentations during the first sessions on day one. Three plenary sessions highlighted the
significance of harvesting wild insects for livelihoods, especially in rural areas. Cases from
countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia were presented and they indicated how people
utilize insects for food and medicine and foster livelihood opportunities through marketing
Insects are often considered a pest to agricultural crops, but through agro-ecological
knowledge, innovative solutions were presented to utilize these insects as food and feed.
Furthermore, ideas on how to fight large scale pest outbreaks were presented, which depend
largely on the development of efficient technologies to capture outbreaks.
The speakers highlighted the heterogeneity in the collection and consumption of insects,
concerning species in developing countries, and the role of sharing cultural and ecological
knowledge among generations to preserve these traditional practices. Particularly the transfer
of knowledge between generations and the cultural traditions attached to them are changing or
diminishing under the influence of new dietary patterns.
The participants emphasized some major issues regarding the future of harvesting from nature
for humans and ecosystems, such as overharvesting of species and habitat degradation, which
have to be taken into stronger consideration, when utilizing insects. The world’s population is
expected to grow by more than two billion people within the next 30 years. This population
growth will mainly be in those countries where entomophagy is already part of the natural
diets and which will further increase demand for insects to supply local diets.
Developing sustainable harvesting practices is one of the most urgent issues to be addressed,
especially in areas where a decline of naturally available insects has already been reported. In
some countries however, the growth of urban demand puts pressure on natural resources. In
order to develop and implement such measures, further research and support by government
authorities is essential.
Semi-cultivation and farming are considered the most viable options to protect natural
populations of insects and especially as farming techniques and expertise have improved in
recent years. Knowledge sharing and improvement of the techniques that are currently used,
including the safe handling of production have an important impact on natural harvesting.
Participants concluded that wider dissemination of materials on how to conduct sustainable
harvesting, semi-domestication and farming, processing, storage and local marketing are
Production of Insects as Food and Feed
Improvement of the methods of producing insects as human food and animal feed in a
controlled environment is widely accepted to be a key issue. Different aspects were
addressed: small- and large scale production, as well as similarities and differences between
the production of insects in temperate and tropical regions.
The participants called for the establishment of a knowledge network to consists of producers
of edible insects and that would cut across regions. It was recommended that this network
includes the existing expertise found in the pet food industry, biological control industry and
zoos. The network should furthermore form a liaison with academics and policy makers in
order to discuss legal aspects such as patenting of production methods and production of non-
endemic insect species.
This session highlighted that environmental concerns and health risks need to be addressed
from an early stage onwards. The use of food waste and side streams in insect production was
deemed particularly prospective. However, the quality of the used waste and the produced
insects need further empirical studies and monitoring. The transmission of diseases has
proven to be problematic on a global scale in the conventional livestock sector. Prevention,
detection, identification and mitigation of microbial contaminants are crucial for successful
and safe insect production.
Concerns have been expressed on the profitability of producing insects on a large scale
because, for example it is labour intensive and feed costs are high. One major challenge that
was discussed is the development of automation processes at affordable costs to assure a
constant supply of insects. The participants also highlighted the development of business
The viewpoint and activities of research projects such as GREEiNSECT, PROteINSECT,
Flying Food, and WINFOOD were presented. These are working internationally across
disciplines and institutions to foster empirical evidence around the utilization of insects for
food and feed.
Silkworms were featured in one of the sessions because these insects are already being
produced on a large scale. Knowledge of silkworm biology is extensive, silkworms are widely
accepted as human food, and silkworms are firmly embedded in our cultural history.
Food safety, Legislation and Policy
The growing interest in the utilization of insects for food and feed has led to a strong interest
from companies, researchers and organizations to review the legal framework that governs
production, processing, sales and consumption of insects. Worldwide standards for the
production and trade of insects and insect products in food and feed do not currently exist.
The presentations and discussions during the conference strengthened the fact that legislation
has to be developed two-fold, considering both animal feed and human consumption of
Microbiological safety, toxicity, pathogens and insect diseases have to be considered in this
new sector and a stronger link between natural science and policy making has to be
established in order to ensure safe production and processing methods. For farmed insects,
these standards will focus primarily on species which have shown promising for
domestication. Participants agreed that moving insects out of a legal grey area is most
important for future developments in this vital area of food security.
Adaptation of feed laws towards upcoming insect based products for fish and animal feed was
encouraged by the industry in order to secure investments. Governments and international
organizations have acknowledged this request for action, but standards, risk assessments,
procedures and quality control measures have to be developed in dialogue with and supported
by all stakeholders involved in the production and marketing chain.
Consumer safety was highlighted by officials as a cornerstone to be further examined in order
to warn consumers of potential allergic risks. Evidence of allergenic components in insects is
available and seems to be comparable to allergies of consuming crustaceans. Research on the
allergenic potential of insect proteins and chitin digestion is an area that should be broadened
and investigated in more insect species. Actors such as the European Commission are
currently investigating how to frame legislation, but have urged that further evidence is
needed in order to advance. In particular, the work undertaken by multi-disciplinary research
groups has been highlighted to advance in this field.
Insects as Feed: Specific Production Systems
This session focused on insect species currently used as feed for particular fish species,
poultry, pigs and pets (e.g. gecko): the black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens), the housefly
(Musca domestica), crickets and grasshoppers (e.g., the house cricket Acheta domesticus), and
mealworms (e.g., Tenebrio molitor). Representatives of companies already producing insect
meal in industrial quantities, including AgriProtein and EnviroFlight, provided insights into
their activities and viewpoints.
Ongoing research is focused on the issues of diet formulation, nutritional values of the insects
produced, type of feed substrate to raise the insects, and the performance of animals that are
fed with the insects. The stakeholders involved have a strong interest to explore the use of
other insect species as feed. The environmental benefits of producing and using insects as
animal feed were also highlighted during the session.
Aquaculture in particular, is considered a sector with important future potential for using
insects as feed and this sector fostered discussion around the most suitable insect species in
feed formulas of the past and the future. The discussion was enriched by test cases of fish
species, e.g., Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss).
Nutrition, Processing, Consumer Attitudes, Outreach and Gastronomy
The utilization of insects in modern and traditional diets has opened the door for an
interesting discourse on how consumers in different parts of the world perceive insects and
how people are starting to utilize insects in business cases. Furthermore, the nutritional
properties of certain insect species were discussed.
Presentations on consumer attitude towards insect consumption in Western countries provided
insight into the human psychology on consumption of new foods and how insects can be
utilized through chefs and food entrepreneurs. While overall attention for entomophagy is
greatly echoed throughout the media, the approaches chosen for working with insects as a
food ingredient are varied and still in an experimental stage. The concept of “deliciousness”
of insects was explored and the participants agreed that gastronomy will play an important
part in shaping our ideas about insects as food.
Moving insects from “bizarre and sensational” to a respected food ingredient was an
important issue for participants. Hence, different ways of how normalization could be
achieved were discussed. Educational material and studies on consumer perception were
presented and there was a discussion on how different members of society would perceive the
presentation of this food item that was new to them. An overall improvement of the
perception of insects was called for. Evidence was shown that this can be achieved by
addressing “what insects are” and “what insects do” such as the role of insects in pollination,
biological control, and other ecosystem services.
The nutritional composition of insects differs substantially between species; this is also due to
the variety of scientific analyses currently used. Participants presented further evidence of the
beneficial nutritional composition of insects, which will need to be further streamlined in
order to solidify the existing data. Discussion centred on the extraction and composition of
insect proteins and lipids and the way human metabolism converts these macronutrients.
Business cases of small entrepreneurs, from insect farmers to food processors who develop
products, were introduced to the audience. Businesses are emerging in developing,
transitional and developed countries and are at the forefront for experiencing consumer
perception and developing new innovative products. A market in Western countries is
currently developing, but edible insects are still a niche product.
The environmental benefits of rearing insects for food and feed were confirmed as a strong
case to promote the use of insects as human food and animal feed. Advantages of the use of
insects over conventional livestock include: diminished greenhouse gas and ammonia
emission, a higher conversion efficiency of feed into high-value animal protein, low water
use, and the prospect to efficiently incorporate waste and side streams into the production
These subjects imply that when rearing insects, less land is used and land is used in a more
efficient way. Nevertheless, additional life cycle assessments are required to further confirm
the sustainability of rearing edible insects and/or to compare with the traditional systems for
the production of food (meat, fish in case of proteins), or for rearing insects as animal feed
protein supplements (comparing with coarse grains, fish or soybean meal for example).
Insects have been an important element in the human diet throughout the world and
throughout human history. This first international conference on insects as food and feed
showed how insects can continue to benefit humankind. Insects have an excellent potential as
a high-value source of animal protein for the rapidly growing world population. A strong
point is the relatively small ecological footprint of farming insects as compared to farming
conventional livestock in terms of (i) land use, (ii) the efficiency in converting feed into high-
value animal protein, and (iii) greenhouse gas and ammonia emission.
To realize the potential of insects, assuring a sustainable supply of the edible insect resource
is required. This can be achieved by further developing insect farming technologies. Further
knowledge on insect processing and biofractionation in relation to (technical) properties
relevant for food and feed industry have to be developed, including sensory properties and
Since edible insects are currently not covered by legislation, the development of regulation is
urgently needed to provide the industry with clear guidelines. In order to allow consumers to
make informed decisions, certification schemes can play a role together with labelling in
order to ensure consumer protection.
Chefs and food entrepreneurs are encouraged to further develop insect gastronomy in order to
upgrade entomophagy on a global scale. A variety of strategies can be used to promote the
use of insects as food and feed. The strategies used depend on the target group. Strategies
could go top down, for example by celebrities consuming insect products and/or bottom up by
consumers in search for more environmental animal protein.
The conference was a milestone in the recognition of the professional insect industry. Feed
industry leaders, insect breeders, universities, NGO’s and other stakeholders gathered for the
first time, with a clear message: Insects for feed and food are viable solution for the protein
Prof. Paul Rozin enlightens participants at a plenary session on “The last and critical step in promoting
insects as food: getting people to eat them” (photo: Marcel Dicke).
Through the conference participants, who included CEO and business executives, civil
society and governmental agency representatives, gastronomy chefs, scientists,
representatives of international organizations and beyond shared their lessons and
experiences, made comments and joined the call for providing recommendations on how best
moving forward the use of insects in the food and feed chains. A review on the good progress
made so far on the implementation of recommendations emanating from the FAO Expert
Meeting on Edible Insects (January 2012) by the public and private sectors, by the media and
by the FAO was noted with acknowledgement by the participants.
Major areas now requiring urgent attention are: further improving and focussing awareness,
legislation and regulations to govern food and feed safety, trade and marketing procedures,
labelling and control measures of insects and their food/feed products, protocols on farming
(more) insect species, protection of wild gathered insect species with their corresponding
traditional knowledge and diets involved, improving communication, outreach strategies and
messaging to the public at large (i.e. the ultimate “consumers” of insects-based products in the
food/feed chain) on the potential, opportunities and acceptability of insects to contribute to a
more sustainable and socially more equitable global food security.
A collection of key messages identified by the participants during the sessions were compiled
by the conference organizers into the following non-binding recommendations from the
conference for the various actors involved:
For Academia (and Research agencies) to:
Address knowledge gaps, including:
o Sustainability of harvesting from nature
o Indigenous knowledge of edible insects
o Identification of edible insects species
o Standard methods for the determination of nutritional values
o Mass-rearing techniques
o Trade and value chains of existing markets
o Ethical issues (e.g., animal welfare)
Establish international research consortiums which can apply for or support/provide funding
Conduct interdisciplinary and international research programs on using insects as food and
Reposition the field of entomology to focus more on the use of insects for food, feed, health
and as a provider of raw materials to other sectors.
For the Private Sector to:
Continue to create national, regional and international associations of food and feed
companies based on insects:
o To improve the communication and the sharing of knowledge between companies,
academia and with policy makers
o To develop product quality standards and quality control mechanisms (e.g. pro-active
self-regulation, certification schemes)
Improve technologies, efficiencies and automation in insect production, processing and
marketing steps as to reduce costs of insect-based products in the market.
For governments & inter-national donors to:
Recognize the potential of and include insects into national food and feed security strategies
Create enabling environments for developing the edible insects sector, including through
incentive policies, legislation and clear regulations governing the sector
Take an active and constructive role in policy debates and legal issues through relevant
ministerial bodies at national level and at regional/ international levels where relevant in the
global food and feed authority discussions
Increase funding opportunities for education, communication and for fundamental and applied
research in insects as food and feed
Include edible insects into habitat conservation strategies, practices and legislation to protect
insects populations from overharvesting.
For International organizations and civil society to:
Provide technical support to stakeholders and countries in using insects as food and feed
Provide platforms for exchange of knowledge and best practices among countries
Include the topic of ‘Edible Insects’ formally into their work programmes, communication and
outreach efforts, funding options and strategies on achieving global food security.
Insect protein extraction method being shown to participants of the WUR excursion during last day of
Conference (photo Paul Vantomme).
as a separate downloadable file, containing:
1. Conference Programme
2. List of abstracts of presentations and of the posters
3. List of Participants