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In January, the European Union approved the inclusion of grasshoppers and lesser mealworms in powder and dried forms. The purpose of this is in order to limit the environmental impact of meat consumption. The idea remains very unpopular with Europeans, however, and has caused politicians to clash in Poland. According to a poll, only 18 percent of Poles would be willing to eat insects on a regular basis. This is the second lowest percentage of respondents who said they would be willing to incorporate insects into their diet coming directly after Italians, with only 17 percent of participants responding positively. Krzysztof Ciecior, deputy agriculture minister in Poland, declared that the Polish government would “protect traditional food values and the freedom of choice”. While Poland’s government is upset with the decision, insects will not be banned from being included in food in Poland. Food packaging must be clearly marked that it includes insects, but the EU already requires this due to people allergic to crustaceans, molluscs, and dust mites may have an allergic reaction as well to grasshoppers and lesser mealworms.
Potential Election Consequences In Poland
PiS (Law and Justice) which is currently the ruling party in Poland has been quick to criticize the EU and has been quick to try to label the main opposition party, PO (Civic Platform) run by Donald Tusk as the party of insect eaters who will replace meat with insects. PO criticized TVP, a state-run broadcaster for seemingly supporting PiS in the argument by running the phrase “The opposition’s proposals for Poles: worms instead of meat” across the screen despite no solid evidence that PO indeed plans on mandating the consumption of insects in place of meat.
In Poland, the discussion of insects in food may influence the election results later this year. Donald Tusk responded to criticisms of his party with accusations of his own. He claims that the national government donated $1.47 million through the National Center for Research and Development to fund a project entitled “SmartFood”. The project includes raising insects meant to be consumed as food. Poland’s Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy rebutted this claim and stated that most of the funding comes from a grant that the project received from Norway and that the program is not run by the government. When you visit the website of the program, it breaks down the funding for the program. 1.275 million euros comes from the Norway 2014-2021 grant while 225,000 comes from the National Center For Research and Development.
To Eat Or Not To Eat The Bugs, That Is The Question
The world’s growing population is currently being used as an argument to consume insects instead of meat. Upon further examination, however, this argument does not hold much water in Europe. By 2100, most European countries are expected to see dramatic drops in their populations. Poland itself which currently has a population of over 38 million people could see its population decrease significantly and fall between 11 and 20 million people by 2100, which would be a 71-47% reduction in the population in only 77 years. Many European Union member states have already reached their peak populations and are expected to continue to decline. In addition, vegetarian and vegan diets continue to become more popular, decreasing the population of meat eaters in the EU even more. Of those who still eat meat, a sizeable portion of them limit their meat consumption. Similar to other European Union member states, meat consumption has also been falling in Poland. Between 2018 and 2021, fresh meat sales fell by 7.5 percent meanwhile the sale of meat substitutes increased by 480 percent. 38.5 percent of Poles say that they are limiting their meat consumption. 8.4 percent of Poles maintain a vegetarian or vegan diet, equivalent to over 3 million people.
Without a doubt, the meat industry can be improved to not only reduce emissions but to also treat animals more humanely. However, the meat industry has already made strides to reduce emissions. Cattle in particular are infamous for their production of methane, yet a food supplement produced from red algae can cut down on methane produced by cattle by 80 percent. Archaea is a micro-organism located in the stomachs of cattle and enables the digestion of plant fiber. This results in methane production. Red algae act as an inhibitor and block the production of methane, though producing enough red algae may be difficult for the needs of the cattle industry. Another solution is a supplement that DSM is producing in the Netherlands which can reduce methane production by 90 percent.
Besides reducing emissions from the meat industry to protect the environment, there needs to be a focus on crop farming as well. While the meat industry produces more CO2 emissions than growing produce, fertilizers and pesticides have a harmful impact on the environment as well. While pesticides are useful in killing insects that feed on crops, they can also kill birds, fish, insects beneficial for the environment, and plants not meant to be killed by farmers. Pesticides also can pollute soil and water. Pesticides are also dangerous for the farmers who handle them giving yet another reason to find alternatives.
Fortunately for the majority of EU citizens still hesitant about eating food made with insects including Polish citizens, there will have to be food continued to be produced without insects due to potential allergies. For Polish and other EU consumers, this gives yet another reason to read the nutrition labels while grocery shopping. However, the meat industry in the European Union also should seriously look at red algae and other supplements that can reduce methane considering how many Polish and European Union citizens, in general, are unlikely to start eating insects anytime soon. Time will tell after Poland’s next election whether PiS or PO will force citizens to eat insects or the more likely scenario that both sides are using the issue to instill fear in voters in order to motivate them to cast ballots.
For More Information Please Read The Following:
“War of the worms: Polish politicians give each other a mouthful over edible insects”, Reuters, 3 March 2023
Khatsenkova, Sophia & Elton, Charlotte. “Fact check: Is the EU really going to force us to eat insects without our knowledge?”, Euronews, 7 February, 2023
Tilles, Daniel. “The Future is Poland”: ruling party launches election campaign of thousands of meetings” Notes from Poland, 10 March, 2023