"Is southern food sweeter than northern food?"
南方 / 北方 are names, i.e. the South / the North. This is due to the caracter 方 (area, region). So I would have expected the particle 的 to say the food from the South / the North : 南方的菜比北方的菜甜吗？Why is the 的 needed if you say 南方的农业 or 北方的生活。Thanks
Actually, you can omit 的 for 南方的农业 or 北方的生活, but it would not "sound" as rhythmic. We Chinese like to pair a 2-character adjective with a 2-character word because it sounds nice. In this case, a 的 can separate the two pairs of characters and make it sound nice.
For your information, 南方 alone can be a noun, but it can also be an adjective, e.g. 南方人 = the people living in the South
Whenever I think I have reached the nadir of translator ineptitude I am sadly surprised. In this case, because the English explicitly included the word "food" twice, I included the Chinese word explicitly in my translation in both cases, not thinking that the brilliant translation would expect the second word to be suppressed. It is sad to see a brand that is so slick in the other languages is so unprofessionally treated here!