The North American Coalition for Insect Agriculture (NACIA) responds to efforts by Senators Flake and Cortez Masto to prohibit USDA subsidies for Insect Agriculture
December 17, 2018:
Global interest in Insects as Food and Feed was sparked by the 2013 release of a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO): Edible Insects – Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security. Concerns about feeding a rapidly growing worldwide population (estimated to reach 9 billion or higher by 2050 from 7.5 billion today) led to problem-solving around increasing food production in an environment of ever-increasing scarcity.
After a failed attempt to add an amendment to the Farm Bill earlier this year that sought to ban research funding for insect agriculture and insect-based foods, Senator Flake (R-AZ) has now teamed up with Senator Cortez Masto (D-NV) in a renewed effort to frame ongoing research supporting insect farming as “wasteful.” Their proposed legislation (Removing Excessive Dollars to Uproot and Cut Expensive (REDUCE) Government Waste Act) is heavy on puns but light on facts concerning insects.
Many innovations are misunderstood in their infancy until the scales tip to wider acceptance. In many parts of the world, insects as food and feed are well established. Research shows that insects have been an important part of the human diet for millennia, and remain a protein-rich food staple for billions of people today.Nearby, in Mexico, there are more than 549 known species of insects which are eaten, and comida prehispanica is once again trending. One of the most well-known is the chapuline, a type of tasty grasshopper which holds deep cultural culinary importance.
Today, insects as a source of protein for food and feed is a growing industry with over 250 companies worldwide. The insects as feed industry alone was estimated to be worth $900 million in 2016 and is forecast to reach $1.5 billion by 2022 (Mordor Intelligence, 2017). The edible insects market is expected to reach nearly $1.2 billion by 2023, supported by a CAGR of 23.8% per a recent Research and Markets report. There is an explosion of growth in this industry globally and the U.S. lags behind. “The insect agriculture industry has grown tremendously in only a few short years – creating jobs, starting American businesses, and fueling economic growth. All signs point to that growth not only continuing, but accelerating. We would welcome the opportunity to show Senators Cortez Masto and Flake how this new agricultural sector could benefit not just the small business owners and farmers already active across 27 states, but their constituents in Nevada and Arizona as well,” said Robert Nathan Allen, NACIA President.
There are currently more than 30 companies in the US growing insects for food and feed, employing approximately 200 people. The city of Charlotte, North Carolina recently announced an initiative that relies on black soldier fly larvae (BSFL) to upcycle 50,000 tons of food waste annually and be harvested for poultry feed. This project alone is expected to create 300 jobs. According to Liz Koutsos, President of EnviroFlight LLC, “There is no doubt that insects as animal and human food ingredients are part of the future of agriculture. We are excited to leverage the technical skills and innovation of our work-force, with the quality and safety guidance provided by the US government to meet this demand. We are also excited to integrate into the agricultural supply chain by utilizing food and feed waste streams to improve protein nutrition of the agricultural species that feed the world.” EnviroFlight recently opened a new commercial BSFL production facility in Maysville, Kentucky bringing investment and jobs to that community.
To date, American businesses have received approximately $25 million in publicly disclosed private investment, though the exact figure is believed to be much greater. Investors include respected entrepreneurs and companies like Arielle Zuckerberg, John Chambers, Buhler Group, Wilbur-Ellis, and Mark Cuban. Globally, insect agriculture companies have garnered hundreds of millions of dollars in investment in the last two years alone.
“At Aspire Food Group, we are helping America stay ahead of the demand for global sustainable protein sources by creating farms with replicable AgTech. We offer modern farming roles including front-line farm staff, robotic and software engineers, entomologists and entomo-nutritionists,” said Mohammed Ashour, Co-Founder and CEO of Aspire Food Group. Insect agriculture research and development has the potential to create agricultural jobs in both rural and urban communities and help the United States create an advantage over other global competitors like China, which currently leads the world in insect farming as well as in research and development.
In contrast, the current federal funding for insects as food or feed businesses in the US amounts to less than one-tenth of one percent (<0.1%) of the annual SBIR budget. The two USDA SBIR grants received by companies in our industry have been utilized for research and development of processing and manufacturing technologies in the US.
The Insects as Food and Feed industry is comprised of farmers, entrepreneurs, and American–owned small businesses founded and operating in:
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These insect farmers are just that: farmers, producing food and creating jobs across America. Insect agriculture brings a scalable, efficient opportunity with proven environmental benefits. It has more than earned the same considerations available to the agricultural sector as it innovates to meet the demand for healthy, sustainable options in the coming decades.
Insects are an untapped natural resource with the potential to change our agricultural systems to be more safe, sustainable, and equitable. The mission of the North American Coalition for Insect Agriculture is to encourage positive use of Insects in North America. For more information on NACIA, please visit: http://www.edibleinsectcoalition.org/