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Can edible insects help curb global warming?

"This paper has studied some of the alternative foods that we can introduce into our diets to alleviate some of this pressure," said researcher Dominic Moran.

By Brooks Hays
New research calculates the ecological benefits of curbing meat consumption. Photo by Moments by Mullineux/Shutterstock
New research calculates the ecological benefits of curbing meat consumption. Photo by Moments by Mullineux/Shutterstock

May 4 (UPI) -- Livestock are responsible for a problematic amount of greenhouse emissions, and unfortunately, the demand for meat -- particularly beef -- is growing.

New research quantifies the benefits edible insects could offer Earth's climate. If crickets and mealworms replaced half the world's meat consumption, agriculture's land use demands could be cut by a third. Livestock currently use 30 percent of the planet's land.

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In addition to occupying land that might be used for more environmentally friendly purposes, livestock produce carbon dioxide and methane themselves -- by way of breathing, belching and flatulence. Additionally, a third of the world's crops are grown for consumption by livestock.

Even replacing a small percentage of daily meat consumption with edible insects could offer environmental benefits.

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The Seattle Mariners are doing their part, selling fried crickets at their stadium this season. But researchers suggest the use of insects could also be used in prepackaged food.

"A mix of small changes in consumer behavior, such as replacing beef with chicken, reducing food waste and potentially introducing insects more commonly into diets, would help achieve land savings and a more sustainable food system," researcher Peter Alexander said in a news release.

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The study, conducted by scientists at the University of Edinburgh and Scotland's Rural College, is the first to compare the environmental costs of conventional meat production with alternative meat products.

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The research -- published in the journal Global Food Security -- determined insects and imitation meat are the most efficient and sustainable substitutes.

"The environmental challenges facing the global agricultural industry are increasing and this paper has studied some of the alternative foods that we can introduce into our diets to alleviate some of this pressure," added Dominic Moran, professor at the University of York.

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