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The Latest Threat to Biodiversity?

Starving? The UN Wants You to Eat Insects

by ADITY SHARMA

It seems that passing ineffectual resolutions isn’t the United Nation’s only forte. The recent suggestion by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) to harvest and consume insects like bees, grasshoppers, ants and beetles, completely omits an undeniable human propensity for exploitation of the environment.

So what’s the problem? People are hungry, and they’re only insects, right? As strange as it may sound, insects play an important role in keeping the forest alive. They are predators and prey, pollinate plants, eat dead trees and creatures, maintain soil fertility and regulate the biodiversity of the forest.

In order for insects to serve as a mainstream food source, they’ll have to be harvested from natural forests.

But if there’s a noticeable dip in the number of insects in a particular forest, then the biodiversity will also take a hit.

Fast-forward to the Distant Future

Harvesting insects has burgeoned into a multibillion dollar industry. But cracks in the perfect scheme have surfaced. A few multinational corporations were accused of illegally harvesting billions of beetles. They’ve denied it all, and have walked away unscathed.

Meanwhile, the UN and other purported proponents have added some unheard of insect group to the endangered list. Fundraisers to raise money for this unheard of endangered insect group are being organized across the globe. But people would much rather tune into a new show on Animal Planet. It’s called Insect Wars. Of course, it’s closely modeled on the lines of the now defunct Whale Wars. Even the lead character in Insect Wars, calls himself as the modern Paul Watson of the jungle. Let’s stay tuned to Animal Planet and cross our fingers for the outcome of the unheard of insect group.

My tree-hugging, overactive imagination has run amuck. Or has it?

The timber logging companies have amply demonstrated their propensity to leave no trade agreement intact and no specie unharmed when it comes to self-enrichment. From the Peruvian Amazon rainforest to the tropical forests in the republic of Congo irreparable damage has been taking place through illegal logging.

Then there are the oily disasters of history to think about. BP’s Gulf oil spill dumped an estimated 2.5 million gallons of oil that poisoned 572 miles of shoreline, and terminated the lives of hundreds of birds and aquatic animals. The damage to the ecosystem is still ongoing, and the oil lords haven’t learned a thing.

Surely, it all began with the innocuous idea of a little drilling here, and a little extra harvesting the cedar there. Voila! The endangered list of species and forests keeps getting longer.

A Way Out

The UN is absolutely right in asserting that food security is a growing concern. Therefore tabling solutions makes sense. But the UN should think twice, maybe thrice before suggesting invasions into endangered lands, which may end up in the hands of dubious corporate giants.

There is always an alternative. The insect industry doesn’t have to thrive. Instead, the UN could advise people to focus on utilizing indigenous plants. Moreover, a comprehensive list should be compiled of edible plants in impoverished regions of the world. Then the research should determine whether those plants can safely serve human needs, while maintaining a harmonious balance in the ecosystem.

Adity Sharma is a writer living in New York.