Global food prices are set to rise by up to 50% by 2016, warns a stark UN report released this week.

Falling agricultural production, increasing wealth in countries such as India and China and the use of key food crops for biofuels will drive up prices by between 20% and 50% over the next seven years, warns The Environmental Food Crisis, a report from the United Nations Environ­ment Programme (UNEP) written in response to last year's spike in commodity prices.

The report said Govern­ment intervention is necessary to limit speculation on food commodities, which it says was responsible for a significant proportion of last year's volatile prices. It also suggested removing subsidies on biofuels.

And the industry must work to tackle climate change, said UNEP, which could threaten 25% of agricultural land by 2050.

"We need to deal with the way the world produces food and the way it is distributed, sold and consumed," said UNEP executive director Achim Steiner.

UK suppliers and retailers have been working with environmental groups to develop sustainable environmental business models for over a decade. The WWF helped Marks & Spencer develop its Plan A strategy, and worked with Unilever to set up the Marine Stewardship Council in 1996.

"This report links food supply security with environmental sustainability," said WWF UK head of food Mark Driscoll. "We're working with key retailers and suppliers to look into sustainability. In many cases businesses' long-term viability is reliant on finding the right strategy now."