The developed world's ever-increasing appetite for meat is turning into a genuine environmental catastrophe, as the raising of livestock to feed that appetite now generates up to 20 percent of the greenhouse gases driving global warming, according to the United Nations. Many environmentalists advocate vegetarianism -- or at least eating less meat -- as a solution. But the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is asking consumers to consider another option: eating insects.
An insect-based diet could provide just as much protein as meat (plus key vitamins and minerals) with far fewer emissions, the FAO says. And breeding insects such as locusts, crickets, and mealworms emits one-tenth the amount of methane that raising livestock does, scientists say.
The idea isn't as far-out as one might think. More than 1,000 insects are already known to be eaten in about 80 percent of the world's countries, though the idea remains a source of revulsion in the Western world. The FAO is putting its money where its mouth is, investing in insect-farming projects in Laos, where locusts and crickets are already popular delicacies. A world conference on insect eating is planned for 2013.
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