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Insects could be humans next food source… even if that gives you the creeps

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A festival next month in London aims to take the yuck factor out of eating bugs and promote the environmental benefits

Crunchy, full of protein and to be found under a rock near you. Insects have long been overlooked as food in all but a handful of places around the world – but now they are crawling closer and closer to our plates.

This spring will see a drive towards removing the yuck factor and putting insects not just on experimental gastronomic menus but also on supermarket shelves.

In April there will be a festival in London, Pestival 2013 – a Wellcome Trust-backed insect appreciation event where the consumption of creepy-crawlies comes high on the agenda. It will feature a two-day “pop-up” restaurant by the Nordic Food Lab, the Scandinavian team behind the Danish restaurant Noma, which brought ants to the table for a sellout 10-day run at Claridge’s hotel in Mayfair last year.

Noma has been named the world’s best restaurant by Restaurant magazine for three years running. Its chef, René Redzepi, says that ants taste like “seared lemon rind” and a purée of fermented grasshoppers and moth larvae tastes like a strong fish sauce. Bee larvae make a sweet mayonnaise used in place of eggs and scientists are constantly coming up with new ways to use little creatures.

In March a BBC documentary will feature food writer Stefan Gates searching out and eating deep-fried locusts and barbecued tarantulas, but behind all the gimmicks and jokes about flies in the soup there is a deeply serious message. Many experts believe there is a clear environmental benefit to humans eating creepy-crawlies.

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The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has been funding projects since 2011 aimed at promoting the eating and farming of insects in south-east Asia and Africa, where an estimated two billion people already eat insects and caterpillar larvae as a regular part of their diet. Last year the FAO published a list of 1,909 edible species of insect and, with sponsorship from the Dutch government, plans a major international conference on “this valuable food source” this year.

Insects are plentiful – globally, for every human there are 40 tonnes of insects – so there is not too much chance of them being endangered, and they are unlikely to have been dosed with chemicals.

“I know it’s taboo to eat bugs in the western world, but why not?”, Redzepi has said. “You go to south-east Asia and this is a common thing. You read about it from all over the world, that people are eating bugs. If you like mushrooms, you’ve eaten so many worms you cannot imagine. But also we eat honey, and honey is the vomit of a bee. Think of that next time you pour it into your tea.”

He said that the basic premise behind Nordic Food Lab was: “Nothing is not edible.”

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Insects are critical to life on Earth and, with more than a million species, are the most diverse group of creatures on the planet, yet they are misunderstood, reviled and often put to death with one squish by humans just because they are there.

Over the next 30 years the planet’s human population will increase to nine billion. Already one billion people do not get enough food. The increase will mean more pressure on agricultural land, water, forests, fisheries and biodiversity resources, as well as nutrients and energy supplies.

The cost of meat is rising, not just in terms of hard cash but also in terms of the amount of rainforest that is destroyed for grazing or to grow feedstuff for cattle. There is also the issue of methane excreted by cows. The livestock farming contribution in terms of greenhouse gas emissions is enormous – 35% of the planet’s methane, 65% of its nitrous oxide and 9% of the carbon dioxide.

Edible insects emit fewer gases, contain high-quality protein, vitamins and amino acids, and have a high food conversion rate, needing a quarter of the food intake of sheep, and half of pigs and chickens, to produce the same amount of protein. They emit less greenhouse gases and ammonia than cows and can be grown on organic waste. China is already successfully setting up huge maggot farms. Zimbabwe has a thriving mapone caterpillar industry and Laos was given nearly $500,000 (£330,000) by the FAO to develop an insect-harvesting project. It’s already big business in the UK, though not always official: last week a man was detained by Gatwick customs as he stepped off a flight from Burkina Faso with 94 kilos of mapone, worth nearly £40,000, in his luggage.

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A study by FoodServiceWarehouse.com suggested that swapping pork and beef for crickets and locusts could help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 95%. But perhaps the fairest thing about eating worms and insects comes when we are dead – then they get a chance to nibble their own back.

© Guardian News and Media 2013

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QAnon authors in a fight over doing an audiobook — because they think their followers can’t read

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On Monday, The Daily Beast reported that the authors of a popular book for believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory are in a bitter fight over whether or not to release an audiobook version.

QAnon: An Invitation to The Great Awakening came out last year and peaked near the top of the Amazon bestseller list in March. One of the book's co-authors, Dustin Nemos, is publicly attacking another co-author, who goes by the name of "JoeM," for his "petty and hostile and paranoid" refusal to help produce an audiobook, and notes that it is necessary because a disproportionate number of QAnon believers are elderly, have bad eyesight, and may not be able to read the book as text. JoeM, for his part, has accused Nemos of being a "grifter" who is trying to make a buck off of true believers.

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Missouri governor appoints judge who fundraised for crisis pregnancy center to help decide Planned Parenthood’s license

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On Monday, the Associated Press reported that Gov. Mike Parson (R-MO) has appointed former Macon County Associate Circuit Judge Philip Prewitt to the Administrative Hearing Commission, a state agency that oversees disputes between the state and organizations seeking licensure.

Prewitt, a former Republican candidate for office, once fundraised on Facebook for Ray of Hope Pregnancy Care Ministeries, a "crisis pregnancy center" that masquerades as a health care facility in order to trick women seeking abortions into listening to anti-abortion propaganda. In 2015, the Missouri Supreme Court reprimanded Prewitt for the post encouraging people to donate, saying that it violated judicial ethics rules.

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Trump being a ‘compulsive liar and erratic ignoramus’ is why he failed on Iran: Conservative columnist

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President Donald Trump's highly-criticized decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal has resulted as was warned, with the country reviving its nuclear program, a conservative columnist explained in The Washington Post on Monday.

Conservative Max Boot took a victory lap in the hard-hitting column, reminding that he had signed a March 2016 letter by 121 Republican foreign policy analysts warning about Trump's approach.

"I wish we had been wrong, but we were all too right," Boot wrote.

"Trump has shown no ability to grow in office; but then it’s hard to learn if you all you read is Fox News chyrons. He is today the same compulsive liar and erratic ignoramus he was at the start of the 2016 campaign," Boot said. "Only now, the stakes are much higher."

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