Five years after the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio, world leaders will gather in New York this summer to draw up the balance sheet. Have the Agenda 21 proposals from Rio been implemented? More or less, says WAU production ecologist Rudy Rabbinge, but: Countries are still wasting energy and water. The use of natural resources could be made a hundred times more efficient, if private investors were to initiate new, sustainable modes of production, says Rabbinge. Joke Waller-Hunter, from the UN-commission for sustainable development, is disappointed that the relief budget from developed countries has decreased over the past five years, but according to Rabbinge, Help from the World Bank and western governments is just a drop in the ocean.
The WAU and DLO institutes for agricultural research have welcomed the decision of agricultural minister Jozias van Aartsen to appoint Cees Veerman as their new chairman. Veerman is also the first manager of the Knowledge Centre Wageningen (KCW) Foundation. The educational and research activities of WAU and DLO will be integrated into this single foundation in the coming years. But first DLO, which at present forms part of the Ministry of Agriculture, has to be privatized. This privatization is scheduled for the start of the coming year
WAU graduate Geert Jan van Veen is a pig farmer in Boekel, the epicentre of the swine fever epidemic in the Netherlands. In May, when the pigs on most of the neighbouring farms were infected by the fever and had to be destroyed, Van Veen still had his pigs and counted himself lucky. By the end of May his farm was also infected, but ironically it's come as a relief. Over the past few months more than a thousand pigs died from the heat in his overcrowded sties, because the pigs could not be moved out of the suspected area around Boekel. The army provided support in the form of tents to house the growing number of pigs. At first it looked like the stable in Bethlehem, but because of the heat and lack of oxygen hundreds of pigs died every week. In the end you start to think Why don't they get fever?
When a blizzard destroys crops or a infectious disease hits livestock, farmers usually demand financial compensation from the government. They cannot insure themselves against these risks yet, but Professor Jerry Skees from the University of Kentucky (USA) thinks insurance companies may be able to cover the costs of large-scale agricultural disasters in future. At present farmers in the USA can insure against damage due to a climatic disaster, but insuring against infectious disease is quite new. The WAU department of Farm Economics is studying this unique problem in a programme sponsored by the European Union