Entomological Research Manager of YES!BAT, Dr. Angela Boggero, researcher at National Research Council – Institute for Ecosystem Study of Verbania Pallanza, tells us about her idea of sustainability
YES!BAT: how was the idea born?
The idea was born the day I was contacted by the staff of the Stazione Teriologica Piemontese because they needed an expert on the identification of insects present in the guano produced by bats. Being experienced on aquatic insects, I needed to extend my knowledge also on terrestrial insects. Chatting about the working methodology, we decided to develop a project idea that would allow us to find resources that would cover the travel expenses to contact with foreign researchers working on the same theme. We thought that the rice fields could be an ideal habitat for working on bats and their diet at the same time, because there, most of the diet is certainly based on aquatic insects.
How is it going so far and what are the expectations?
We never thought about winning the call. We simply submitted a proposal, as we submitted other ideas in other project calls. What I can say is that we obtained a significant positive feedback, not only within Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition Foundation, but also among farmers that sustain the project, Riso Preciso, Cascina Canta and Cascina Bettola, and among those who practice rice-agriculture and other cultivations. Indeed, the project is going faster than ever anticipated.
The expectations that initially were very few, have now grown, and therefore we think we can develop a similar methodology to be used by farmers in the fruit and vegetable sector, where the arrival of alien species is causing considerable damages. The latter, developed ad hoc, could contribute to the reduction in the use of pesticides, thus obtaining organic products, but also could stop the spread of pests that damage the production of individual farmers.
What is your idea of sustainability and how do you work in this direction?
A sustainable development is a development that meets current and future needs. And I stress “future needs”. It is therefore an ever-changing process that requires not only environmentally sustainable, but also economic and social solutions.
The Institute where I am working (Institute of Ecosystem Study of the CNR) has always been struggling to ensure that aquatic environments are preserved in natural or almost natural conditions, has contributed to the recovery of freshwater environments and has developed standardised monitoring methodologies and metrics useful to assess the ecological status of freshwaters at the national level in support of the Ministry of Environment and Protection of Land and Sea.
SDGs goals: what is CNR-ISE contribution?
Seventeen are the objectives that demonstrate the core of the ideas of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that involve the economic, social and environmental. The CNR-ISE already guarantees its contribution within themes such as: protection of the environment from degradation, also through consumption and eco-sustainable management of the water resource, as well as through information actions on climate change and possible future scenarios, and law enforcement actions.
All this with a view to contributing to improving human life, especially when it is developed in harmony with the surrounding nature, i.e. through the improvement of ecosystem services and quality of life.
YES!BAT has been presented at the International Journalism Festival of Perugia, in the panel “End poverty, protect the planet, ensure prosperity for all? Food is the answer”. Can you give us your opinion about how food can be the answer?
The answer is in a different mode of nutrition: not only do meats provide proteins and other macronutrients that are fundamental to our body. A proper diet would help to reduce the problems related to obesity, dysfunction, and other diseases that we have seen have a strong relationship with the diet followed. This is because both meat production and agriculture rely heavily on the use of plant protection products and other substances that support higher production. More natural products would support better nutrition and better adapted to the needs of life, would make the planet a better and healthier place to live and above all help to solve problems related to poverty. How many poor people can afford a source of food like meat? Few, so the answer is in food: a better and more varied vegetable diet that does not completely exclude meat, but that drastically reduces it.
Researcher and vegetarian, what is, in your opinion, the food of the future?
Unfortunately, I must admit that it is probable that the insects, which I am dealing with, will become part of the food of the future because our planet is no longer able to sustain such a high production of meat, despite the increase in wealth in the countries of the third world let us understand that this will be the choice. Nutritional choices, with mass movements linked to wars and climate changes, are shifting towards new sources of food and man is characterized by curiosity towards the new, new foods and new ways of cooking food.
This allows me to make a joke smiling: just as a vegetarian, I will be out of all this and I’m happy. I have never loved meat and I would not have to see an insect enter my dishes!