Industrial animal farming for food should be replaced rather than adding insect protein as another form of industrial farming.
To reach its objectives - as laid out in the Farm to Fork strategy - the EU should take a twofold approach.
Promote a dietary shift towards more plant-based food.
Reduce the number of animals that are intensively farmed.
Moreover, the precautionary principle should apply in decision-making on industrial insect farming. The insect farming industry is energy intensive and, consequently, a potential contributor to climate change. Moreover, there is little information, currently, on what environmental impacts or impacts on the ecosystem the rearing of large quantities of insects could have in Europe.
Further EU regulatory approvals need to be anchored in solid scientific evidence on the insect farming industry’s environmental impacts, energy consumption, climate change and ecosystem impacts.
Insect protein in pet food does not replace meat otherwise sold for human consumption
Insect protein is promoted as a more sustainable alternative on the pet food market. However, conventional pet food production sources meat production by-products that are not processed into human edible food. Insect protein in pet food, therefore, does not replace meat that would otherwise have been sold for human consumption.
Insect farming can be energy intensive and have a high climate & environmental impact
Black soldier fly oil and yellow mealworm production emits 20% and 191% more CO2 respectively than soybean oil production. Black soldier fly meal production produces 191% more CO2 than soybean meal. Whereas black soldier fly oil has a slightly lower energy use than soybean production, yellow mealworm oil is almost 4 times higher. Black soldier fly meal production has an energy use that is 20 times higher than soybean meal’s.
Insect protein in feed can exacertbate the food-feed competition
Insect protein is touted as an alternative feed that requires less land use. However, this case can only be made if the insects are fed on by-products. In practice, most EU producers do not rely on food wastes to feed their insects.
According to the industry association IPIFF, producers use a variety of different ingredients. Of these, former foodstuff is only employed by 37.5% of European insect producers, while more than half use “co-products from agrifood industries”, and about three-quarters use fruits, vegetables, and cereal. These are resources that could be fed directly to chickens, pigs or for direct human consumption. Around a third of insect producers use commercial feed which includes soy.
Consequently, producing insects for animal feed still requires using arable land for crops that could otherwise be used for food for humans, exacerbating the competition for arable land between crops for feed and crops for food.