Civilization has steered itself onto a vicious spiral. The modern system of agriculture, upon which global food security hinges, devours the planet’s scarce supplies of fertile lands, fresh water, productive fisheries and forest ecosystems. 821 million lives hang in the balance, already suffering famine and all forms of malnutrition, while early signs of an even larger catastrophe begin to transpire. Instead of perpetuating self-undermining dynamics, the international science and policy communities should radically reform the methods of food production and provision. Systems thinking should lend insight.