Why We Couldn’t Feed Insectivores Insects & Future FDA Regulations
Jarrod Goldin, one of the founders of Next Millennium Farms, speaks about the incredible entomophagy movement gaining popularity. Next Millennium farms is leading the protein revolution with a new, environmentally sound method of food production.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be releasing his interview in a Next Millennium Series, taking you on explorations of ento’s relationship to GMOs, FDA regulations, the water crisis and more.
Today, Jarrod discusses regulations surrounding entomophagy from the oddities with restrictions in feeding animals insects and the future of FDA regulations with insects.
Jarrod: For a lot of reasons, and we can get into them, it’s illegal in North America and Canada to feed fish and chicken insects like worms and crickets…even though fish and chicken are insectivores, meaning that by nature they eat insects.
When we have done some of our experiments and we are feeding fish things like worms, we have seen that they grow faster, their death rates are lower, their hatching rates are higher. It should not be a surprise that the food nature provided for fish and chicken was better for them than the food we synthesized. I think that is a big part of the bigger issue: most people lived on farms in the past. Now we live in cities. We need things like supermarkets and food production with higher scales of efficiency that help get food to people in a quick and cheap manner.
We take quality less into account. As a wealthy nation, we don’t immediately worry about food.
You know that United Nations document that came out about food security? Before, you couldn’t feed animals animal protein. The reason the UN and the FAO took on that agenda was because of Creutzfeldt-Jakob, or mad cow, disease. They were trying to protect people who were eating cows that had been fed other cows, etc… The different governments around the world took on that principal and cut out insects (because insects are animals) from feeding livestock.
Now, one of the bigger changes we have seen is that this law has been changed – the governments changed “animal” to “mammal” – so now you cannot feed mammals other mammal protein. The reason they changed the law is specifically to allow insects in livestock feed. The governments are now trying to figure out two parts of the new law: (1) how the insects will be grown – basically quality assurance, and (2) the approval of the category itself.
We are working with consultants here on those two elements and applying to be the first farm in Canada to sell our insects to livestock farmers – primarily chicken and fish – and for those chicken and fish to be sold to the public.
Aly: That’s incredible. I know another growing concern is that as insects gain popularity as a food source, especially in America, the FDA – or other governance surrounding food regulation – might crack down and make some laws about what is – and is not – appropriate for consumption.
Jarrod: There is something called a GRAS determination with the FDA, which means generally recognized as safe. So if I’m going to make a brownie with sugar and wheat, I do not have to apply to the FDA to get my brownie approved, because the ingredients I am using are generally recognized as safe.
If you have a new food you want to sell, you must get GRAS approval. Insect protein falls under GRAS approval, meaning that the FDA has generally accepted it as safe. This has a lot to do with the fact that 2 billion people in the world eat insects already, including Africa, Asia, Mexico, and South America. When sushi came to the US there were similar concerns, but now sushi is a hugely popular and widely accepted food.
There should, of course, still be regulations and regulatory visits to farms of GRAS foods to ensure that the growing conditions are safe and that the processing facilities are clean. We still have to get approval for our facilities not because we sell insects, but because we sell food.
When the FDA begins to look more closely at insects as a food source, it will be a good thing. At the very least insects will have risen to a significant level of popularity to merit such attention. End story: they’re a hell of a lot safer to consume than beef or chicken in so many regards.