Want Flies With That? EU Critics Have a New Conspiracy Theory

Some populist politicians say Brussels is now targeting traditional diets.

(Bloomberg) — After immigrants, “woke” liberals and Brussels bureaucrats, some of Europe’s political agitators have found another — rather smaller — enemy in their culture war: insects.

From Italy’s Matteo Salvini to Britain’s Nigel Farage, self-proclaimed defenders of tradition say there’s a plan afoot to make the public dine on crickets, locusts and grasshoppers. Politicians from Poland’s ruling party are telling voters to reelect them or else the opposition will make them eat bugs.

Alternative protein sources are seen as a part of the European Union’s sustainability agenda and selling insects for food has been allowed in the bloc since 2021. They can be ground into powder and added to animal feed, sports drinks, bars, pasta and bread, or can be eaten whole as a snack. But given their price and less-than-appetizing image, they remain a niche market.

Not, though, for Salvini. The Italian deputy prime minister tweeted earlier this year that he’s opposed to “madness” that would “impoverish” Italian agriculture and culture. Last month, he came out in support of chefs as “defenders of a way of life based on health, beauty and wealth” in the face of attempts to enforce novel foods like insects.

On Thursday, the right-wing Brothers of Italy-led government ordered that products using flour derived from insects must be clearly labeled with what percentage it makes up of the ingredients and sold in supermarkets in a separate area. The plan comes into force in 90 days to give the European Commission time to comment.

“People can eat whatever they like,” said Francesco Lollobrigida, minister for agriculture, food sovereignty and forests. “For cricket flour, migratory locust, mealworm and larva gialla, we think we need labeling that specifies in a timely and visible way which products are derived from these insects.”

Farage, the UK’s most prominent Euroskeptic and now a pundit on TV channel GB News, told his audience (incorrectly) that the UK government’s decision to align with EU food standards meant that insects could end up on British tables. 

The former member of the European Parliament declared in January he didn’t want locusts for breakfast. “We are about to have mass produced insects put into our food,” Farage would later tweet.

In France, Laurent Duplomb of the Republicans party stood up in Senate to declare that anyone who wanted to eat crickets could come to his fields, and the others can continue to eat a good rib of beef. A farmer by trade, the senator said he was still worried that insect-based foods could be introduced without “clearly informing consumers”.

Meanwhile in Poland, edible insects have become an increasingly hot topic as the country gears up for elections later this year. Politicians from the ruling Law & Justice party have used social media in recent weeks to demonstrate their meat allegiance. 

Hostility to “edible bugs” has been a growing part of fringe mythologies around the world since 2020, and like some other campaigns there’s a Russian angle. As part of their ongoing attempt to downplay living standards in Europe, pro-Kremlin outlets now regularly feature stories about Europeans “forced to eat” insects by their governments. Some posts go as far as to say it’s a direct result of the EU’s sanctions over the war in Ukraine.


–With assistance from Flavia Rotondi and Alessandro Speciale.

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