By ELIZABETH JOHNSON/Montana State News

Imagine yourself walking down an isle at the grocery store, past the packaged beef, chicken pork and insects.  Yes you read that right:  insects.  Florence Dunkel, a traveling entomologist and professor at Montana State University, is attempting to get insects recognized as a viable food source.

Dunkel hosted a debate at Montana State University on March 24 to establish what should be included in a proposed resolution statement for the FDA, focusing on approving edible insects as a commercial food source.  The resolution will be voted on in Montana State University’s Student Union Building in ballroom C on April 16.

Insects have more benefits than the public is aware of.  “Many insects are packed with protein, fiber, good fats and vital minerals – as much or more than many other food sources,” according to National Geographic.

Insects can provide a source of protein in parts of the world where conventional meats such as beef and pork are unavailable and provide a major step towards sustainable diets, according to National Geographic.

The health impact is only one appeal of edible bugs.  Compared to large animals, such as cows, insects are much more efficient at producing protein, requiring less input – “meaning they need less food to produce more product,” according to National Geographic’s website.

In a report released by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, insects are part of the traditional diet of at least 2 billion people, with over 1900 species reported as being used as food.

The increased use of pesticides, however, is depriving many of this food source.  “This took away the children’s main snack. They used to carry around a bag of grasshoppers that they had collected and dried over a fire for the day,” said Dunkel speaking about the diet of Mali.

Dunkel’s work is helping to put an end to the Western stigma that bugs are icky and opening up the idea of insects as a viable, effective, and even tasty food source.Along with the proposal to the FDA, she organizes the annual bug buffet at Montana State University to introduce students to edible insects.

May 14-17, Dunkel will be attending the first “Insects to feed the world” conference in the Netherlands, hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, which aims to realize the potential insects offer as a food source.

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