Will we all be eating Blade Runner-style insects soon?

The new film predicts a future of insect grub protein farms - did they get that from our book On Eating Insects?
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Ryan Gosling chows down on some tasty protein in Blade Runner 2049
Ryan Gosling chows down on some tasty protein in Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 certainly presents a compelling portrait of the future, from flying cars to human clones. Yet how plausible is the suggestion, made in the film’s opening scene, that we may eventually subsist on insect grubs?

The film set, as the title suggests, in the year 2049, sees the human race looking to grubs as a solution to world hunger. It features a series of high tech bug farms spread out across the California state.  

Sharp-eyed Phaidon fans will not be new to this concept. In our book On Eating Insects, Mark Bomford, Director of the Yale Sustainable Food Project, and author of the introduction, put forth the proposition that eating bugs would alleviate pressure on the world's resources.

 

The grubs featured in Blade Runner 2049
The grubs featured in Blade Runner 2049

“Compare beef and crickets, for instance, and you’ll see that per unit of water and feed input, a cricket always brings far more edible protein to the table than beef. If an insect and a cow get into a metrics fight, it doesn’t matter if it’s about saving the planet or going paleo – the insect always triumphs.” Bomford even concedes that “insects might be the best solution we have to the superlative problem of how to feed the world.” 

One thing though is worth bearing in mind: “A life subsisting on crickets would require three billion cricket lives per single human life,” Bomford calculates.

It’s not clear whether in our imminent future, or in the world Blade Runner 2049 describes, billions crickets would have to be sacrificed in order to prolong human life.

As Bomford argues, unlike the fairly linear progress of technology, “food systems are diverse and complex webs of life, and will elude capture by any single metric, model, frame of reference, narrative or way of knowing."

 

On Eating Insects

One thing's for sure. Getting the world's population, who currently eat pork and beef, to switch to bugs is far from simple, but could be the best way to keep a large human – or indeed replicant - population alive in a fragile world. 

For more on insect eating, including recipes, tasting notes and field reports, get On Eating Insects here.


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