Insects could be our future diet - and that’s no bushtucker trial

Insects are fast becoming an alternative sustainable food source to meet the world's demands, says Kathriona Devereux
Insects could be our future diet - and that’s no bushtucker trial

JUNGLE ANTICS: Some of the participants in this year’s I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here, including Boy George (third from left)

IT’S 20 years since the first series of I’m A Celebrity (Get Me Out Of Here) made eating insects a form of entertainment.

I don’t watch the British survivalist reality show, but I’m aware of its return because of the ‘news’ reports that revealed who is in the jungle this year. Successfully identifying the supposedly well known personalities is a game in itself.

Boy George was the only competitor I recognised, his 1983 hit Karma Chameleon was the first pop song I knew all the words to and therefore he holds a special place in my heart.

I’m vaguely aware of Mike Tindall as someone who appears in waiting room Hello magazines because of his marriage to the Queen’s granddaughter.

And apparently UK Conservative MP Matt Hancock is not the first politician to get into trouble for taking off to the Australian outback to bolster his public image instead of serving his time in Westminster as his constituents elected him to.

Sounds like he’s planning ahead for his post-political career, a lifestyle wandering the reality show circuit, appearing on Keeping Up With The Great British Dancing Celebrity Drag Race, or whatever the latest ratings winner is.

Watching discomfited celebs complain about constipation, critters and cattiness is not how I generally like to spend an evening but I have seen the odd bushtucker trial over the years. However, nine million viewers regularly enjoy watching British celebs squirm and squeal at eating something unpleasant.

I wonder if a Thai cricket farmer would laugh at the convulsions some celebs put themselves through, eating what is an ordinary, traditional snack in other cultures. Stir-fried crickets and broccoli with soy sauce and garlic is just like a delicious nutty shrimp dish. Mmmm.

Eating insects for sustenance, rather than sport, is one of the topics explored in the new series 10 Things To Know About ...which starts next week on RTÉ1.

Our current dysfunctional global food system, which uses vast amounts of land to feed animals, or to grow plants to feed to animals, is environmentally damaging in so many different ways.

Insects have a high protein content and carbon-friendly breeding methods, and are fast becoming an alternative sustainable food source to meet the world’s demands.

Scientists are working out ways of creating protein as a major food ingredient, rather than the inefficient and environmentally damaging way of rearing beef and dairy and then converting those animal products into food ingredients. Farming insects might be one significant way in the future.

Unfortunately, not all insects are helpful in the food chain. In the new series, I met a tillage farmer who lost thousands of euros after grain aphids carrying Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV) devastated his crop this year.

The warmer winters that climate change is bringing will make life easier for aphids to thrive, and once they have gotten hold of a crop, and if they carry the virus, they can reduce yield by on average 30%, or as much as 80% in optimal aphid conditions.

Farmers will need new ways of managing aphids and BYDV with less insecticides because aphids are becoming resistant to insecticides and EU regulations are limiting the amount of insecticide that farmers can use.

Researchers are looking to further understand aphids to develop tools and knowledge to help farmers combat BYDV and protect crops.

A Sustainable Christmas

I met my first person of 2022 to declare “I have all my Christmas shopping done!” back in the last week of September, I was simultaneously impressed and disgusted.

Once the Jazz Festival and Halloween are over, I think it’s reasonable to mention Christmas. So here is my annual plea to not go mad buying ‘stuff’ because advertisers and marketers bombard us with spangly ads convincing us that the perfect Christmas is about having bought all the right things for your family members so they can sit around a laden dinner table, wearing their new jumpers, smiling at all their new possessions piled up around the house. When, in fact, the key to a successful Christmas is spending time with people you care about.

I threw out the suggestion of a Secret Santa on my family WhatsApp group to save us all traipsing around the shops looking for presents that have a high likelihood of being unwanted or unused.

The suggestion was greeted with enthusiasm, so now I just have to choose one good present for my first cousin and I can buy her something really nice that I know she’ll love.

If ;Thou shalt buy less stuff; is the first commandment of Christmas. ;Thou shalt shop locally; should be the second.

Rather than spending your hard- earned euros on the Amazon behemoth, there are plenty of ways to give a thoughtful gift and keep the cash in Cork.

Last year, my aunt got me a chunky voucher for a café just around the corner from my office, and essentially bought me lunch or coffee multiple times over the year - it was such a nice treat.

Rather than buying kids more plastic toys, perhaps you could get them a voucher for an indoor play place, or a trip to a swimming pool, or a ticket for a match, or a visit to Fota - basically, any place that will give them an experience to remember, instead of another toy for the pile.

10 Things to Know About..., presented by Kathriona Devereux, Jonathan McCrea, and Farran man Fergus McAuliffe, starts on RTÉ1 on Monday, November 14, at 8.30pm .

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