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UN Agency: Bugs May Ease World Hunger, Research Stunted By ‘Western Influences’

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Insects to be eaten are seen on a plate. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Insects to be eaten are seen on a plate. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) – The Food and Agriculture Organization issued a report which asserts that insects should be further incorporated into global eating habits as a means of combating world hunger and health problems.

The report additionally noted that Western cultures and attitudes have hindered progress in regards to researching insects as a viable food source.

“As a result of … Western influences, particularly in Africa, research on the contribution of edible insects to nutrition and economy, and into insect species’ biology and ecology, has been sporadic,” researchers wrote in a section of the report dedicated to cultural influences on the purposeful incorporation of bugs into food.

There may still be hope for enthusiasts of the movement. Those involved in writing the report, which was released Monday from the United Nations agency’s Rome office, have noticed the tide beginning to significantly turn on the matter.

“… Western attitudes are changing, as noted by some researchers: ‘Insects have long been a significant dietary factor in the poorer regions of the world, and it is high time that scientists recognize this fact and begin to build on it, rather than discouraging or ignoring the practice,’” researcher and author Julieta Ramos Elorduy was quoted as saying in the report.

CBS News learned that the FAO has released reports on the subject since 2003. Researchers have additionally launched awareness campaigns and field projects to help promote bugs as a food source.

Insects are regularly consumed in many regions throughout the planet either to supplement diets with additional protein sources or as a delicacy. Bugs such as beetles, grasshoppers, cicadas and locusts are especially popular in cultures that promote the practice formally known as entomophagy.

“[I]nsect consumption is not a new concept in many parts of the world,” the report additionally noted. “From ants to beetle larvae – eaten by tribes in Africa and Australia as part of their subsistence diets – to the popular, crispy-fried locusts and beetles enjoyed in Thailand, it is estimated that insect-eating is practised regularly by at least 2 billion people worldwide.”

The agency referred to bugs as a source of “good fats” and protein ”particularly important as a food supplement for undernourished children” that leave a “low environmental footprint,” according to CBS News.

Still, many view bugs as less than appetizing fare. However, The Associated Press pointed out that even those with aversions to eating bugs may be doing so anyway, as many insects are unintentionally consumed.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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