PAW4: Preventing the takeoff of insect farming

As part of Charity Entrepreneurship's 2023 Top Ideas contest, will we select "Preventing the takeoff of insect farming" as a top Preventive Animal Welfare intervention?

Idea overview

The primary objective of this charity is to thwart the rapid rise of insect farming, which is anticipated to become a major source of animal feed in agriculture. To achieve this, the charity may advocate for policies or launch corporate campaigns targeting animal farmers, discouraging them from using insects as feed. Additionally, the organization could run negative campaigns against insect usage, raising awareness about the potential consequences and promoting alternative solutions.

Preventive animal welfare

This year our focus is on interventions and policies that prevent future harms done to animals, as opposed to solving current problems. We will be looking for interventions that, as well as having some short run evidence of impact, will prevent future problems, i.e., have the biggest impact on farmed animals in the future, say 35 years from now.

We intend to select 2-4 ideas out of the 10 presented to recommend to entrepreneurs who enter our incubation program. This market resolves YES if this idea is chosen; NO otherwise.

About the contest

In partnership with Charity Entrepreneurship, Manifold is sponsoring a $2000 forecasting tournament to inform which ideas end up selected

  • You can win part of a $1000 prize pool as a forecaster, for best predicting which interventions we choose.

  • You can win one of ten $100 prizes for posting an informative comment on Manifold that most influences our decision.

For contest details and all markets, see the group CE 2023 Top Ideas.

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MarcusAbramovitch avatar
Marcus Abramovitch

The scale of this intervention seems sufficiently large that this is very important to do. The probability of insect sentience is far too high and the amount of insects that would be farmed would be enormous.

ErwinRossen avatar
Erwin Rossenbought Ṁ10 of YES

One reason why this might be more tractable than any of the others is that there are not a lot of economic benefactors yet.

hominidan avatar
hominidan (edited)

I'd expect the continuing takeoff of cultured meat & nutritious vegan food to vastly override insect farming. So I can only imagine insect farming takeoff in case of extreme climate change and sunblock scenarios. However, in these scenarios, it's not clear that insect farming would be net-negative (particularly if conscious subsystems are true). So my decision to fund might hinge on what could be protein alternatives in extreme scenarios. If their price of production isn't far behind, this project could be good.

PatMyron avatar
Pat Myron (edited)

Industrial agriculture would seemingly respond to actual incentives more strongly than PSAs

Not sure how tractable this is

finnhambly avatar
Finn Hamblyis predicting NO at 30%

@PatMyron I actually think memes have done an excellent job of mitigating the decades-long, liberal-elite-facing articles advocating for insect eating.

PatMyron avatar
Pat Myronbought Ṁ222 of NO

@finnhambly I interpreted the description as targeting supply rather than demand, which is why I bought no. I think supply is less preventable via negative campaigns

finnhambly avatar
Finn Hamblybought Ṁ150 of NO

@PatMyron I agree with your point about supply being less preventable via negative campaigns, but the description says it'll be focused on reducing corporate demand, "discouraging [animal farmers] from using insects as feed" — i.e. putting them off feeding insects to their animals.

My greatest uncertainty in what a negative campaign would look like. Would the proposed downsides actually be convincing, or would it just publicise the advantages of putting insects in feed? From the farmers' perspectives, these are some of the pros:

  • Reduced environmental impact compared to other sources of protein used like soybeans or fishmeal (supposedly). It probably depends on what you're measuring, but I could imagine a vat full of insects wouldn't be very environmentally damaging even compared to plant sources.

  • Waste management and nutrient upcycling: I don't know how big of a deal this is, but I'd guess that you could recover protein from agricultural byproducts nicely, and insects could convert that back to easily-digestible protein.

  • Cost? I mean more options for improving/adjusting the nutrient composition of your feed is only going to help, right?

It's much harder to think of cons farmers might consider (I think the ethical concerns are valid, but I don't think that's going to be the key factor in farmers' decision making). GPT-4 helped me out with ideas:

  • Potential Disease Transmission: One potential risk associated with using insects in animal feed is the possibility of disease transmission. Insects can potentially harbor diseases that could infect the animals they're fed to.

  • Allergenicity: Some insects may cause allergic reactions in certain animals, which could lead to health issues if used in animal feed.

  • Public Perception and Acceptance: In some cultures and societies, there can be a significant "yuck factor" associated with the idea of eating insects or eating animals that have been fed on insects.

Only the last one seems compelling to me — would your customers really be happy to find out they're eating insect-fed beef rather than grass-fed beef? My point about memes was only meant to be tangential to this proposal ("I will not live in a pod and I will not eat the bugs!") but that does seem like the line you'd want to go down here: give insect-fed meat a bad image.

I'm still betting no on this, though. You might be able to say the insects in animal feed risks giving animals diseases, but chances are that a corporate campaign would only raise awareness of insect feed product (and many might conclude the benefits outweigh the costs).

PatMyron avatar
Pat Myronis predicting NO at 25%

@finnhambly I think most consumers don't even know what their food is eating, feels too indirect for most consumers to even know one way or another

finnhambly avatar
Finn Hamblyis predicting NO at 25%

@PatMyron Yeah I agree

AnishaZaveri avatar
Anisha Zaveribought Ṁ15 of YES

GPT-4 ranked this as #8

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