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Insect Farming and Saving the Planet

A recent article in the Time magazine entitled Insect Farming Isn't Going to Save the Planet by Philip Lymbery made an argument that insect farming is just a variation of animal farming (albeit perhaps more efficient). As a result, it has all the same shortcomings and should not be treated as a sustainable alternative to current farming practices. This is a valid and important point to make, which we highlight in our section on black soldier fly myths. However, in our opinion, the article sends a wrong general message, perhaps unintentionally.

Firstly, the author spends a lot of words on potential problems while dedicating only a short final paragraph to acknowledging that insect husbandry can fit well into sustainable farming practices. We agree that having a systematic approach to achieving sustainability is more important than using individual "alternative" tools. However, insect farming is a currently underutilized tool that has a great potential to reduce environmental impact and increase sustainability of modern agriculture. If a method does not solve a problem by itself, it does not mean that it will not solve a problem when used in combination with other methods. This point should be emphasized, not be hidden in the last paragraph and generally brushed aside.

Secondly, farming some insect species, with black soldier flies being a prime example, does not just produce animal protein and fat. It also remediates a wide variety of organic waste, which otherwise has a good chance of ending up in landfills. While doing so, it generates valuable organic fertilizers that can make their own contribution to increasing agricultural sustainability.

Thirdly, the author brings up a very real problem of the decline in abundance of wild insects. Doing so in this article implies that insect farming is somehow contributing to insect decline without explicitly making such a statement. In fact, there is absolutely no evidence for that being the case. Insect farming has never been brought up as a contributing factor to this unfortunate phenomenon. If nothing else, it is still too small of an industry to have a significant worldwide impact.

Philip Lymberly is a great advocate for sustainable agriculture who provides many valid criticisms of modern industrial farming practices. Some of these criticisms may be applicable to industrial insect farming as well. However, the key word here is industrial, not insect. Dismissing all insect farming is doing a serious disservice to advancing an overall sustainability of agricultural production.