News - November 17, 2009

Botanic gardens impose ban on Wageningen UR

Botanic gardens and tropical greenhouses in the Netherlands are forbidden to make transactions with Wageningen UR. This is disclosed by the spokesman for the Dutch Botanic Garden Collections Foundation (SNP) Bert van den Wollenberg. The reason for this ban is that Wageningen UR has stopped managing its own collections.

Unifarm, a subsidiary of Wageningen UR, approached TU Delft last week for plant material for teaching purposes. This request was turned down by Van den Wollenberg, curator of the botanic garden in Delft. At the same time, he also informed the other SNP members to treat Wageningen UR in the same way if it should approach them. According to Van den Wollenberg, Wageningen UR has become a third party since its member status was relinquished when it gave up its own collections. Transactions with third parties are forbidden in the light of bio-diversity conservation.  So says the Code of Conduct signed by SNP members in 2005.
Simon Vink, spokesman for the Executive Board of Wageningen UR feels that SNP's line of action is 'bizarre'. 'It's making a mountain out of a molehill', he says. According to Vink, Unifarm asked for a few simple crops to grow and study in its own greenhouses. 'These can be bought elsewhere, in any case. The conduct of the SNP has nothing to do with research and education. I don't know what they want to achieve with this decision. If this is how it should be, so be it. But we haven't been informed officially.'
Of no value
As far as SNP is concerned, Wageningen UR does not have a botanic garden any more. Van den Wollenberg: 'It has ceased to manage its collection. The plants and trees are still there, but the collection is of no value without expertise and information. It becomes mere property. It's a nice park, but not a collection.' Vink disagrees. 'We have a botanic collection and we are keeping that. In addition, we also have the Genetic Resources Collection. This is more important for bio-diversity than the gardens. They are making much ado about nothing.' According to Vink, Wageningen UR is negotiating with SNP.
Back door
Van den Wollenberg: 'You can't claim to have a heart for managing your collection if you abandon even the tropical greenhouse. They are now trying to acquire plant materials via a back door. This is a very unpleasant situation for Wageningen to be in. Wageningen UR has shot itself in the foot.'