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Brussels Insect Conferences Roundup

On 26 April Nick Rousseau attended IPIFF’s workshop “State of the art of the insect sector and latest regulatory developments” on behalf of Woven Network and its members.

He also attended PROteINSECT’s concluding conference the following day. Both events were held in Brussels.

Here are his observations:

IPIFF’s work on standards

One of the most striking things for me was what IPIFF are doing on standards – they are working with their members on very clear ways of operating that manage the primary risks highlights in the EFSA opinion around substrate and processing of insect materials. The speaker presentations were very insightful, and are available here.

Insects as Feed

An exclusive reception was hosted by Jan Huitema MEP, a Dutch dairy farmer, where PROTeINSECT launched their White Paper advocating the adoption of insects for livestock feed. You can read the White Paper here.

You can also download presentations from the conference on PROteINSECT’s website.

The event highlighted to me that there is support for this within the European Parliament, but this support is from an isolated voice.  That said, there was one UK MEP present which was encouraging, another farmer.

I understand that Dr Elaine Fitches who has led the PROteINSECT Project at Fera Science will be meeting a DEFRA Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) shortly to discuss the case for supporting insects for livestock feed.  She feels there is a more compelling case for reducing restrictions on this than on food. I have offered to accompany her to highlight that there is a growing industry sector in the UK that would have a keen interest and represent the start of a major new economic opportunity.

The conference on the next day was rather more encouraging with a packed venue (apparently they had a sizeable waiting list) and plenty of evidence that the UK is pro-active in this area – from the Fera led project to the representation by UK researchers, farmers and others.

The Commission has established that, legally, insect farmers where they are intending for feed, are “feed business operators” (according to article 83/2005). You can also legally supply insect fat for livestock – it is just the protein that is restricted.

The PROteINSECT research found that the risks from livestock eating properly farmed insects are minimal, and that growth performance and flavour of the resulting animals were not affected. They will be making a strong case for legislation that is restricting this to be lifted.

Canada may shortly be introducing legislation to allow insects for feed, which could help put pressure on the EU. Other trading blocks look at the EU as template for legislation.

A study was done under PROteINSECT of the Life Cycle sustainability of insect farming – is it truly sustainable? Realistically, at a very early stage in development, which IFF is, it is not that realistic to expect insect farming operations to be sustainable – the key is to see how far it has to go and what key changes would make the greatest difference. The most striking finding was that the changes that will make insect farming more economically sustainable could also increase its environmental sustainability. A lot comes down to the substrates used.

  • EU imports 15mt soymeal per year, which provides 60% of EU animal feed protein.
  • Soya yield is 1 tonne /ha/year
  • Insects yield is 1000 tonne/ha/year
  • EU produces 89mt food waste per year, 14000 mt of manure per year
  • If we use 10% of manure to rear fly larvae could provide 1.75mt a year.
  • Insect farming is socially more accessible – can start to become an insect producer with less than 50$!! Can be economic opportunity to many.
  • In the PROTeINSECT consumer survey 70% thought it was totally acceptable to feed insect protein to farmed animals. 66% comfortable with eating farmed animals fed on insects, but 30% say they need to know more.  64% think no or low risk from this.
  • In terms of how much to substitute with insects, PROTeINSECT study identified (for the house-fly) – salmon up to 40% of protein replacement, chickens up to 25%, piglets up to 20%. Study the performance of the animals.

Insects as Fishmeal

The European Commission representative advised us that they are working on the changes that are needed to enable insects to be fed as part of fish farming. If this goes through the European Parliament with no objections it could be in place by end of 2016. Needless to say, there may be objections and so be prepared for further delays.

  • Insects are naturally up to 70% of a trout’s diet.
  • Amino acid profile of insects can be similar to fishmeal.

Novel Food Insights

We had presentations from the European Commission on both days showing the attention that is being paid to insects as food and feed (IFF). There was more detail than I had previously heard about how legislation is changing and the Novel Food approval process:

  • Under the Novel Food requirement, interested bodies will be able to submit applications for a product that a number of businesses are intending to market.
  • Businesses will need to review how they manage their intellectual property in this context – the Commission will publish Novel Food applications approvals which could include sensitive information, unless a business explicitly asks them not to.
  • There will not be a fee for submitting an application.
  • There is an entirely separate process for submitting the case for a food item that is consumed in a non-EU country being approved and this could be dealt with very quickly if there are no objections.

Other Observations

Outside of Novel Foods legislation, the United Nations is reviewing its policy regarding IFF and there were suggestions that other vested interests expressed by countries that stand to lose out if IFF grows are having some influence. The UK and other European governments need to back IFF if the UN is to continue to support this as a theme with its research capacity and influence.

Discussions at the conference and over coffee, etc. highlighted that while there is a need to act at European level (and even at UN) to get the conditions in place for the legal incorporation of insects into food and feed, there can also be significant challenges at the more local level with securing reliable sources of substrate for insect farms. This is clearly exercising a lot of people’s minds and is something where Woven could do well to partner with the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

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As ever, please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions or ideas for taking some of these issues forward. Woven Network is at your service!

Nick’s email is nick.rousseau@woven-network.co.uk

This article was edited by Harold Stone – his email is harold.stone@woven-network.co.uk