Governments across the world are being advised to inject more money in research of wild-type crops that can be resilient with the growing effects of climate change.
The advice came from Prof Samuel Myers, a principal research scientist in planetary health exposure, epidemiology and risk programme at the Harvard University, Centre for the Environment.
Myers also saw no problem in humans consuming insects, which has nutritional benefits and environmentally positive.
He was speaking yesterday at a Caribbean Planetary Health Conference under the theme “Building Resilient Health System for Climate Change” at the Univerisity of the West Indies, St Augustine, campus.
The conference hinged about planetary health and how it impacts Caribbean health.
Among the speakers were Prof Jonathan Patz from the University of Winsconsin-Madison and Dr Jonathan Drewry who works with the Pan American Health Organisation.
During a question and answer segment, an attendee asked the panel if any research had been done to cultivate crops that are more resilient to climate change and if they had undertaken studies with regards the nutritional benefits of eating insects.
Myers said there are thousands of food crops that countries are not taking advantage of.
“We need to step up globally our commitment to the CGIAR (Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research)-systems that lead global agricultural research. We need to be putting more money into agricultural research to identify those type of wild type crops to allow our agricultural system to be more resilient to changing conditions.”
Myers admitted that insect consumption has been attracting attention in some countries.
He said several insects are consumed in many parts of the world as a delicacy.
One way insects can be eaten was by grinding into a powder form and putting it in meals.
Myers said the biggest food company in Canada now sells “cricket flour” as an additive, which can be used when making biscuits or cookies.
“You don’t taste it (cricket) but it adds a lot of nutrients. Nutritionally insects are very valuable and environmentally positive.”
Patz interjected saying there are few global staple crops humans rely on.
In the US, he said the Government spend millions of dollars growing corn and grains but “nothing on fruits and vegetables.”
He said governments need to change their investments on healthier foods.
Patz cited Zambia which is dependent on maize for their survival.
“If you were to supplement that (maize) with roasted mealworms that are high in lysine. There is a protein deficiency in Zambia...they are lysine depleted. They are lacking in lysine because they just eat corn all the time. So there are places where insects can really (have benefits)as far as nutrition is concerned.”
However, Patz said we don’t have to eat insects every day and recommended that it was better to stick to a plant-based diet.
“Insects, we are doing research on them and they can have huge benefits not only as far as amino benefits profile but also in fibre. We are doing experiments where we are feeding students cricket muffins and looking at their stool samples and finding beneficial bacteria in them. So there are multiple benefits from eating insects.”
Instead of feeding livestock grains, Patsz said they can consume black soldier flies which is high in protein.
“There are lots of ways we can improve our food production,” Patz said.
The flies’ larvae are reported to be high in protein.