Feeding more than seven billion people with minimal environmental and climate impacts is no small feat. That parts of the world are plagued by obesity while starvation is rampant elsewhere shows that part of the problem revolves around distribution and social equity. But agricultural methods pose some of the biggest challenges.
During the past half-century, the world has moved increasingly to industrial agriculture: attempting to maximize efficiency through massive, often inhumane livestock operations; turning huge swaths of land over to monocrops requiring liberal use of fertilizers, pesticides, and genetic modification; and reliance on fossil fuel-consuming machinery and underpaid migrant workers.
This has contributed to: increased greenhouse-gas emissions; loss of forests and wetlands that prevent climate change by storing carbon; pollution from runoff and pesticides; resistance to antibiotics and pesticides; reduced biodiversity; and degradation, erosion, and loss of soil.