Foresters and nature conservationists have always assumed that Western and Central Europe was covered with forests in ancient times. Well-known Dutch ecologist Frans Vera is challenging this theory in his PhD thesis at WAU. He argues that the European oaks wouldn't have survived the competition with other trees in closed forests. They can only develop in open fields and boscage, where herbivores eat grass and slow down the forestation. This means that ecologists' policies of restoring nature in reserves should change, states Vera. They need to introduce cattle in the reserves to recover natural development. I'm anxious to hear how the specialists react to my thesis, says Vera. The old theory of closed forests is strongly embedded in the minds of the scientists. They have to free their minds in order to be able to see it differently.
The chairs in Environmental Technology and Environmental Sociology at WAU are assisting in the development of a course on waste water management in Vietnam. This will focus on the textile industry in Vietnam, which currently does not clean its waste water. The Vietnamese have shown little interest in environmental courses so far, because they don't care about the environment, states the Vietnamese director of the Centre for Environmental and Technology Management (Centema). However, the country is currently seeking over a thousand environmentalists. The WAU has received money from the Dutch Ministry of Development Cooperation for training staff. The Dutch and Vietnamese have to travel a lot to exchange knowledge, but it's cheaper than Dutch specialists staying for long periods in Vietnam, says project coordinator Joost van Buuren
There are no guarantees that food is one hundred percent safe, says the new chair in Food Safety Microbiology, Dr Michiel van Schothorst. He will give lectures on food safety one day a week at WAU, at the request of food companies Unilever, Nestle, Danone and Kraft-Jacobs. He criticises the policy of food companies whereby food is destroyed in order to give consumers the feeling that they are being taken care of. Consumer perception is as important to the companies as scientific evidence. But a consequence of this is that companies destroy millions of dollars' worth of food. It's a disgrace that the rich countries claim the right to destroy food out of fear, while there is still a lot of malnutrition in the world. One example: British beef was quite safe, and Schothorst continued to eat it. It is a shame so many cattle were destroyed during the BSE affair
Dutch Minister of Agriculture Jozias van Aartsen will continue with budget cuts for the university next year to the tune of three million guilders. Last year he also wanted this cutback, but the Dutch parliament decided this would harm the merger between WAU and DLO institutes for agricultural research. The minister states that the students in Wageningen receive much more money than their colleagues in other universities. The University Board, which is frequently engaged in discussions about the costs of the education programmes with the Ministry of Agriculture, denies that this is the case