Berlin World Food Conference: Governments agree on communiqué on digital transformation and agriculture

At the 11th Berlin Agriculture Ministers’ Conference, the agriculture ministers of 74 countries committed themselves to bear in mind both the opportunities and the risks involved in the digital transformation and agriculture. They unanimously adopted an ambitious final communiqué at the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) on Saturday afternoon. The ministers emphasised the following: Digital transformation of agriculture cannot be shaped at the national level exclusively - connectivity should rather be implemented at global level.

In the final communiqué, the representatives of the 74 countries call upon the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to elaborate a policy paper for an independent international Digital Council.

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Governments also bear responsibility themselves: They are urged in the communiqué to recognise, use and promote the potential of the digital transformation and to identify its risks. This includes, among other things, making sure that the farmers have access to digital technologies in the first place. Processed information from the fields and animal stalls leads to the question of data security and data sovereignty. In the final communiqué, the ministers also look at social contexts: Digital transformation entails structural changes and disruptions in the farming sector and in rural areas - these changes need to be managed.

The Berlin Agriculture Ministers' Conference is regarded as the political highlight of the GFFA. 2,000 high-level representatives from politics, industry and civil society gathered at the GFFA over three days. At this international conference, they exchanged their views on key issues regarding the future of the global agri-food industry.

Under the title "Agriculture Goes Digital – Smart Solutions for Future Farming", the question of how the potential of digitisation can be better used for agriculture and how farmers can benefit from digital technologies was explored at the GFFA expert meetings. Among other aspects, data security and data sovereignty - in the context of OpenData - played an important role during the discussions. The goal was to provide new stimuli for the shaping and development of "Agriculture and Digital Transformation" at international level.

Federal Chancellor Merkel attends for the first time

At the invitation of Federal Minister Klöckner, Federal Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel attended the GFFA for the first time. On Friday afternoon, Merkel addressed the agriculture ministers, talking about the importance of digital transformation for the farming sector.

Merkel emphasised that the fight against hunger would play a key role in the years to come and said to the participants of the international conference: "You have come here today to reconcile seemingly conflicting goals: the fight against hunger and the fight for a responsible management of resources. For both goals, digitisation is more an opportunity than a risk." The Federal Chancellor mentioned an example to illustrate climate change: "Some plants do not grow as well as they did 100 years ago – here in Germany as well. Climate change is an ecological challenge of our time. And digitalisation can help here, too," Merkel said.

The Federal Chancellor also pointed out the significance of precision farming - for example with respect to high volumes of nitrogen used that, as she claimed, were often a major problem. Merkel: "Precision farming will be of benefit in this respect as it can reach every plant and save fertiliser. If we include artificial intelligence and its prediction methods, then we have a wonderful future to look forward to."

With a view to the conference, Merkel highlighted the significance of political cooperation: “To ensure that the individual remains at the centre of development, we need guidelines, regulations, a framework that provides legal certainty.” She called upon the agriculture ministers from all parts of the world to shape the digital transformation and make use of it as an opportunity - in particular with regard to food and nutrition security.

The GFFA is the world's leading international conference on key issues regarding the future of the global agri-food industry. The GFFA focuses on the issue of food security and has taken place annually during the International Green Week in Berlin since 2009. The political highlight is the Agriculture Ministers' Conference which this year was attended by 74 Ministers. The Forum is organised and hosted by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in cooperation with the Berlin Senate, Messe Berlin GmbH and the GFFA Berlin e.V..

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