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Edible insects: Innovating and educating

In an exclusive interview with HOP, two pioneering professors, Dr Christopher Bear and Dr Verity Jones are paving a new path of innovation in their latest acclaimed project which examines “​​children’s perception of protein and future protein”.

With a detailed history of entomology at our fingertips, there is no doubt that we are learning more about insects, however, a new research led by Dr Christopher Bear and Dr Verity Jones aims to create a new understanding of insects and the future of food for the generations which will inherit the growing world.

The current socio-economic status of food is ever changing and with events around the world causing food not only to become an everyday commodity, it is also an item used within the political frameworks of many neighbouring countries which trade this vital necessity. Yet, despite food being the pillar for our everyday lives, there is no doubt that sometimes, we do forget where our food comes from and the processes it had to go through to get to our plates.

To examine the viewpoints we have on food, Dr Christopher Bear and Dr Verity Jones have pioneered a new project which examines how we think about food by speaking to those who are sometimes less heard and their opinions diminished, children.

HOP spoke with Dr Christopher Bear who said, “We’re interested in how young people, those of primary age, understand the environment and how that translates into how they think about the food that they eat, see and talk about or are offered. Recently, we have become increasingly aware of how concerned the younger generation are with environmental issues partly because of what they’re taught in school and also the external influences of what they see on TV, magazines and social media.”

Dr Christopher Bear and Dr Verity Jones aim to introduce future proteins in their research such as edible insects in order to expand conversations which will allow children to discuss their opinions on food and the environment surrounding it. Dr Bear told HOP, “food is going to be the focus in this project as we are examining how children make these connections with their environment through their everyday actions…Edible Insects are just a part of the project and we are interested in this partly because of the rise of alternative proteins, in general as edible insects, cultured meat and even plant based proteins which are becoming increasingly accessible.”

Dr Verity Jones expanded on this statement by saying “I think it’s important to look at what the rest of the world is doing. Currently, there are 2 billion people eating edible insects and yet, because of the shift to massive agricultural systems, there has been a different way in how insects are perceived and how our relationship with insects creates an East and West divide. I think it’s important that we learn from different cultures and explore every opportunity…There are real challenges around edible insects and the perceptions around them in the UK post Brexit mainly due to the delays in authorisation but that being said, there are many people that are interested in different opportunities and young people want to have the choice of what they eat based on if its sustainable, tasty and nutritious. There is no doubt that edible insects offer that opportunity.

Undoubtedly, it is evident to see that through education and empowerment, a new food system can be cultivated for the expanding future and as the research continues to progress, so too will our appreciation for the alternatives.

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