Mexico's government must take emergency measures to battle an alarming obesity epidemic, the United Nations' special rapporteur on the right to food recommended at the end of an official, seven-day mission to that country.

In presenting his preliminary observations on the nation's food system, Olivier De Schutter said seven out of 10 Mexicans are overweight or obese and stressed the need for the government to develop new strategies for tackling the severe problems in that area.

He said the Mexican government should declare a state of emergency as it faces the dual challenges of overcoming "food poverty" and bringing down high obesity rates.

"Mexico finds itself in a paradoxical situation," De Schutter said, adding that malnutrition and overnutrition are the result of several factors, including the trend to favor the interests of the most powerful agribusinesses and promote the sale of high-energy foods.

"Farm and trade policies are not in keeping with the need to support a balanced diet," he said.

Mexico ranks second in the world in terms of percentage of the adult population that is overweight and obese, trailing only the United States, and it ranks first in weight problems among children, with the trend moving higher.

The U.N. rapporteur was invited by the Mexican government and his visit comes in the context of the recent incorporation of the right to food in the Mexican constitution.

Mexico is one of 25 countries to include recognition of citizens' right to food in its national charter.

Roughly 19.5 million Mexicans suffer from food insecurity, De Schutter said at a press conference, adding that the vast majority of these people live in rural areas and that Indians are disproportionately represented in that total.

It is not enough to improve farm output, according to the U.N. envoy, who said the government must ensure sustainable production and people's access to food.

Among other priorities, he said the government should raise the minimum salary to ensure it is in line with the cost of the basic food basket and promote agricultural biodiversity.

De Schutter also called on Mexico to implement another agrarian reform program, which would be the country's third after those of 1917 and 1992.

"This reform should focus on small producers and on the expansion of agro-ecological techniques," he said.

De Schutter said he will present his complete report before the U.N. Human Rights Council in a few months in Geneva and that he hopes his visit will spur debate in Mexico.

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