Can Eating Insects Save the World?

Mon Mar 18, 9-10pm, BBC4

It’s a bit of luck for the BBC that their Insect season coincides with the fallout from the tabloid horsemeat disco of the last few weeks. Hitherto, it was eating creepy crawlies which gave Middle England the heebie jeebies; now it’s the unfortunate quadruped which Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers described as ‘an animal with a furry nose’. This should be grist to Stefan Gates’s mill, as he asks why half the world traps, farms, cooks and eats insects every day, and the other (coincidentally the half that loves beef and chicken) can’t think of anything worse.

The evidence is pretty compelling: bugs are 20 times more efficient than cows as a reproducing source of protein, need little food or water, and emit hardly any greenhouse gases. Gates is no proselytiser: he is clearly revolted by much of what he tries, but he offers some fascinating insights into how some of the poorest people on the planet rely on insects to survive. The only note of caution for potential consumers should be sounded by the appearance of Patrick Durst of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Bangkok, a man who after 20 years of an insect-rich diet is coming to resemble a large bookish grasshopper.