The European Union is investing 3 million euros to explore whether bugs could supplement the continent’s food supply:
Insects are a natural food source: They are packed with protein and calcium, low in fat, and offer a cheaper option to farming livestock. Compared to most animals used for food, these cold-blooded creatures spend less energy and nutrients, reproduce faster and in higher quantities, and—if farmed—would emit fewer greenhouse gasses.
It turns out the US has already been consuming a variety of insect particles, often hidden in the label:
Take "cochineal extract”" [PDF], also known as "carmine." It’s a "natural" color additive extracted from crushed and dried cactus-dwelling female cochineal beetles and eggs which are then used to color red, pink, or purple candies, plus yogurts, ice creams, drugs, fruit beverages, baby products, and cosmetics by companies like Smashbox and Yves Saint Laurent (yes, Americans also spread bug guts on their faces). One pound of red dye uses about 70,000 of these insects.
(Photo: Closeup of deep-fried crickets and other insects on a street cart in Bangkok, Thailand by Flickr user Killer Turnip)