SINGAPORE (Sept 30): Feeding a planet of 7.7 billion people is no easy matter. Every person on the planet needs, expects and has the right to a healthy diet. Every farmer needs, expects and has the right to a decent livelihood. The roughly 10 million other species on the planet need a habitat in which they can survive. And every business that produces, processes and transports food needs and expects to earn a profit.

It is a tall order — and it is not being fulfilled. More than 820 million people are chronically hungry. Another two billion or so suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, such as a lack of vitamins or proteins. Around 650 million adults are obese, an epidemic caused in part by ultra-processed foods stuffed with sugar, saturated fats and other chemical additives.

But the problems go far beyond hunger and diet. Today’s agro-industrial practices are the main cause of deforestation, freshwater depletion and pollution, soil erosion and the collapse of biodiversity. To top it off, human-induced climate change, caused partly by the food sector, is wreaking havoc on crop production. With more warming and population growth ahead, the crisis will worsen unless decisive changes are made.

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