Insect larvae should be used in animal feed, says EU project

Insect larvae reared on manure should be used in animal feed as a “priority”, according to the European Commission. 

The news follows latest research from European Union (EU)-funded project PROteINSECT, which promotes the benefits, health, safety and hygiene of using fly larvae in animal feed. Researchers recommended that larvae of the common housefly (‘Musca domestica’) and the black soldier fly (‘Hermetia illucens’), be used to provide protein in feed for pigs and poultry, as well as fish.

The €3.84 million project, which was wrapped up in April, suggested that fly larvae could be reared sustainably on manure, thus using materials that would otherwise simply be disposed of by farmers and associated industries.

Dr Wolfgang Trunk, responsible for animal nutrition at the Commission’s directorate-general for health and food safety, said: “I can’t predict what my political masters will say - and we still have some concerns to resolve - but we are looking for solutions in the short-term to address Europe’s need for more efficient sources of protein in animal feed. This is a priority for us, right now."

The new data is likely to lead to a quick and comprehensive review of European legislation to allow for insect larvae to be used as a source of protein in animal feed. Members of the European Parliament are likely to be presented with a ‘white paper’ on the matter within a few months.

Dr Trunk said that one of his concerns was that the project was not progressing quickly enough. “The project is perhaps looking at solutions for the longer- or medium term, but we are looking for solutions in the short term,” he said.

Changes in EU legislation relating to processed animal protein (PAP) would be needed for the project to go ahead on any widespread basis.

Edward Barnes, a spokesman for project partner Minerva Communications UK, said: “Legislation needs to be extended and adapted, where appropriate, to include the use of PAP from insect protein in animal feed, based on insect protein being shown to meet quality, safety and biodiversity regulations.”

As well as the relaxation of existing PAP rules, a new regulatory framework is needed to govern this new area of cultivation.

The EU currently imports 70% of its animal feed. Countries such as Mali and China already use larvae in animal feed.

The project noted it could face resistance from consumer groups, as insect larvae have been only rarely used in this way in Europe owing to “cultural concerns”.

In a document which has been seen and approved for release by the Commission’s directorate-general for health and food safety, PROteINSECT researchers stated: “The absence of a clear and permissive regulatory framework across Europe currently represents a major barrier which the research group PROteINSECT is working to overcome.”

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