Professor Rob Schilperoort from the University of Leiden is one of the promoters of biotechnology in the Netherlands. His research on the agrobacterium tumifaciens has led to a facilitation in the transfer of DNA in plants. He is engaged in funding biotechnological research for industrial purposes. Multinationals invest huge sums in the development of biotechnology and protecting their results through patenting. Universities should invest in original fundamental research for which basic patents can be applied, and the development of technology, says Schilperoort. Too many research groups spend time improving the findings of others."
The WAU should invest much more in information and communication technology, says A.J. Bronkhorst of WAU's foreign office. The university should capitalise on its knowledge in digital networks and cooperate much more with foreign universities in this area. However, the university is not investing in this technology. It tends to wait for the government to subsidise its projects. Others disagree with Bronkhorst: it's very hard to capitalise digital information transfer, there is sufficient money available and the WAU has already sufficient international partners.
Danish scientists have announced that genetically modified coleseed exchanged DNA with wild varieties of rapeseed in a field experiment. The coleseed became resistant to the Basta herbicide. Is there a possibility that other weeds can become resistant in this way? Dutch scientists doubt it, but very little research has been done on this subject. The committee which assesses the risks of field tests with modified plants, relies on information from the past. Maybe we should help these modified plants to escape and see what the effects are," proposes a professor of population genetics in Utrecht.
Two Dutch students are complaining that WAU's education is boring and not stimulating. The two biology students, Sigrid Verhaegh and Jan Willem Visser, want suggestions from other students on how the education here can be made more lively. Discussions about ethics and life as a whole never came up during my study," says Verhaegh. The practical courses are like using a cookery book: one reads the instructions, does the work and the job is finished. We learn what a dead plant looks like, but we don't experience real plants." The students want the lecturers to use more intuition and creativity in their courses. The university should be a playground, full of ideas." They look forward to other suggestions, because We don't have concrete solutions to bring science alive."