US insect group bugged by proposed federal funding cut

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis contact

- Last updated on GMT

US insect industry org pushes back on bid to curb federal funds ©GettyImages/Richard McMillin
US insect industry org pushes back on bid to curb federal funds ©GettyImages/Richard McMillin

Related tags: legislation, Insect, novel protein

The North American Coalition for Insect Agriculture is rejecting new legislation aimed at blocking federal funding for some efforts to expand insect agriculture and production.

The proposed bill​, which was introduced earlier this month by Senator Jeff Flake and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, calls for an end to federal funding for the development of insect-based foods, cricket farming or the taste-testing of insect-based foods.  

The proposed legislation, the REDUCE Government Waste Act, presents a concerning precedent, even if it does not proceed, said Cheryl Preyer, board secretary with the North American Coalition for Insect Agriculture (NACIA).

“They called out specifically insect agriculture and insect-based foods and the precedent was very, very frightening to our trade group and we wanted to get the word out because we would really like to keep that precedent from being set,”​ she told FeedNavigator. “The fact that this is happening at the federal level, that this is being introduced, even it goes nowhere, we felt we had to step up and say something.”

Previously, there was an attempt to add such elements into the Farm Bill; however, that effort was blocked, she said. “The concern is that this might set a precedent in terms of prohibiting funding for any sort of insect agriculture and we’re concerned about that precedent being set.”

The insect agriculture for use in feed or food is in early stages, and NACIA objects to actions that could hinder the potential for future growth, she said.

“A lot of the research now has been done on a company basis, but if there is potential for someone to do that research to benefit the entire industry, we’d hate to see it put at risk,” ​she added.

The industry could provide an opportunity for job growth along with helping to address the protein requirements of a growing population, Preyer said.

Aquaculture and poultry are among the areas considering use in feed of black soldier fly larvae ingredients and other insect-based ingredients, she said.

“When you look at our space, it’s the feed side that is getting traction more quickly – the scale is elevating much more quickly on the feed side than the food side." 

More research work required 

Up to now, the insect industry has not received much federal funding for R&D, said Preyer. Private companies have funded most of the research done.

However, there are many potential areas that need further exploration from greater understanding of the nutritional elements of using insects in feed or food, and more research is needed around the potential for insect ingredients to support animal health or to upcycle waste products and generate feed ingredients, she said.

“In terms of research into the use of insects in feed and food, we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, so there’s been a little bit of research on chitin and what it can mean for the microbiome and that can affect people as well as animals and there is some work yet to be done on palatability.

“There is some research that has come out recently on the immunity aspect of black soldier fly larvae for poultry … it’s a start and there’s also some work that has been done with immunity in piglets with black soldier fly larvae oil. “It’s still a young industry we don’t have a lot of established research.”

Although the use of crickets and mealworms as feed ingredients tend to be “grandfathered in,”​ efforts to have black soldier fly larvae products included in feed had to start from the beginning of the approval process, she said.

More work is needed to support the extension of the approved use of black soldier fly larvae products for different production species.

“It took studies, feeding studies feeding black soldier fly larvae to carnivorous fish and toxicity studies, [on] what is the heavy metal accumulation in black soldier fly larvae – there were a lot of studies that went into the approval process for the FDA and AAFCO [Association of American Feed Control Officials] just to get the green light,”​ she said. “Only recently has the FDA given the green light to recommend approval for black soldier fly larvae to be fed to poultry and so that’s an expansion by the definition by AAFCO, but it takes additional research to expand that further into additional species.”

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