News - March 31, 2010



It was with rising astonishment that I listened to a Radio 1 interview with our colleague Johan Sanders (Professor of Agrotechnology) about KLM's intention to start using biofuels.

He thinks it's a good idea. And what about the farmland that should be used to grow food, asked one of the interviewers. That wasn't going to be a problem, because only 1 ½ percent of our Agricultural land was going to be used to grow biofuel crops. And the food supply problem would be solved by improved technology. Imagine you were going hungry because of that 1 ½ percent that is no longer available. Greenpeace was misinformed too, suggesting we have been cutting down rainforests for years in our hunger for tropical hardwood. I have my own information that tells me that multinationals are busy cutting down forests to plant palm plantations. 
I am no environmental activist. But I do think it's a pity if a Wageningen professor is consulted as an expert and then just gives his own personal opinion. A simple comment to the effect that it might be better to use the land opened up by deforestation to grow food rather than biofuels would not have gone amiss. Or that new forest might even be planted. I read in the Gelderlander that new forest for orang outangs has been successfully planted on Borneo. I also felt the lack of any comment on the second generation of biofuels. It is possible my information is not correct, but I think there is much to be gained here with the help of Professor Sanders' technology. But the improved techniques for good production that we are thinking about now will only be in operation in a few years' time, while hunger is a present reality for many people, not a future one.
I do not believe in the first generation of biofuels; I have more faith in the second generation. I also believe in less economics and more sustainability. And I particularly value experts who take a balanced view of not just the (primarily financial?) advantages of new developments, but also their disadvantages. This was a missed opportunity for Wageningen UR.
Leo van Raamsdonk, Rikilt