Photo by pong-photo9 via Getty Images

But no one else is really onboard 

Mike Pomranz
July 31, 2018

Despite all the talk about insects being the future of sustainable food, most Americans haven’t yet made crickets a regular part of their diet. And as far as US Senator Jeff Flake is concerned, that’s just fine. Arizona’s junior senator has unexpectedly taken up the cause of attempting to cut federal funding for research into edible insects.

Last week, news broke that Flake had submitted an amendment to the appropriations package that would prohibit funds “to support the development of insect-based foods for human consumption, including cricket farming and taste-testing of insect-based foods.”

Flake decried the program as an example of government spending run amuck. “I’ve been troubled by a lot of wasteful spending at the USDA, I hear they’ve got a program to try to get Americans to enjoy bugs, crickets,” he was quoted as saying by Roll Call. “Why in the world? I think the best they can do is about $38 a pound and you can buy beef or pork for you know, $3.80. So I just don’t see the sense.”

Clearly, no one wants to see their tax dollars go to waste, but according to Modern Farmer, grants for these research projects are set at a maximum of $100,000, meaning that rallying against edible insect research is akin to fighting against an ant in a haystack, especially at a time when the Trump administration has just promised billions of dollars to help bailout the farming industry during the escalating trade war with China.

“[USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture] grants are awarded in a rigorous selection, ensuring aligned w/ agency priorities w/ solid scientific backing and commercial potential,” the insect farming company Tiny Farms argued on Twitter. “Important to avoid hypocrisy re:funding in Ag with $13B new subsidies that are only needed b/c unnecessary trade war.”

Meanwhile, Aaron T. Dossey, president, founder and owner of All Things Bugs, LLC., told Roll Call that the $100,000 grant he received was instrumental to launching his company, hinting that these government grants are about more than just researching how to make crickets taste better; they can also create economic opportunities. “It really created a career, and created my business,” Dossey said.

Still, Flake seemed to be more concerned with playing up his proposal as a pun-filled talking point. When asked whether he thought his amendment would go through, he replied, “I’m talking, but I’m hearing crickets.” So in effect what he’s saying is that no one cares about his efforts to ax funding to edible insect research. Actually, that sounds about right.

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