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Bacteria and Bugs Could Help Humans Survive Food Shortage

Nov 20, 2014 04:36 PM EST

With experts worrying that global food shortage may soon become an issue due to an unsustainable human population, they are trying to come up with a possible solution. But new research shows that we may not have to worry after all - as long as we're okay eating bacterial slime and bugs instead of a Big Mac and fries.

"We came up with two primary classes of solutions," study author Joshua Pearce of Michigan Technological University said in a statement. "We can convert existing fossil fuels to food by growing bacteria on top of it - then either eat the bacterial slime or feed it to rats and bugs and then eat them."

Though this is a bizarre and unappetizing menu, Pearce contends that even if the agricultural system collapses and we lose all our crops due to some catastrophic event, this diet will help to feed hungry mouths for five years afterwards, giving the planet enough time to recover and flourish once more.

"We looked purely at technical viability - ignoring all the social issues that currently cause millions to go hungry and die every year," he explained.

Other studies have looked to stockpiling as a solution, which is storing up massive piles of food ahead of time, but that would backfire and in fact raise food prices and cause more people to starve. Not to mention that creating a stockpile big enough is not feasible within the time constraints.

Pearce even took into account the worst possible doomsday scenarios when considering whether bacteria and bugs were a viable option. Crop-destroying catastrophes like sudden climate change, super-weeds, super-bacteria, super-pests and super-pathogens, and even super-volcanoes, an asteroid or comet impact would not be enough to starve humans to death.

Of course, it would take some time to get everyone used to eating bacteria slime and bugs for dinner, but in the meantime until we adjust, Pearce says we could survive on fungi (like mushrooms) and leaves. Tea steeped with pines from your front yard is also surprisingly nutritious, he adds.

But it's not all bad, with nature affording us some simple luxuries.

"We could extract sugar from the bacterial slime and carbonate it for soda pop. We'd still have food scientists, too, who could make almost anything taste like bacon or tofurkey," he said. "It wouldn't be so bad."

Nuclear winter and sudden climate change are the most likely scenarios to occur, but Pearce hopes his findings will help prevent worst cases than these from actually happening and provide solutions to help people survive them. You can learn more about his book, Feeding Everyone No Matter What: Managing Food Security After Global Catastrophe, here.

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