Large international research groups are unravelling the DNA patterns of humans, plants, animals and micro-organisms very rapidly. Molecular biologists are struggling with enormous amounts of information generated by sequencing the genetic material. We work more and more with our computers, state geneticists Jan van der Poel and Martin Groenen, who are studying chicken DNA. They often rely on information from the Human Genome Project, because large areas of the genomes of both humans and poultry are organised in the same way. The researchers receive money from the company Euribrid, which means that they cannot publish their results immediately. It will take several years to map the complete genomes of both humans and chickens. The genetic codes of ten bacteria and one yeast are already known
The image of Dutch farmers has changed over the centuries, explains environmental professor Lucas Reijnders in his recently published book on the history and future of Dutch family farms. Farmers were seen as backward until the 19th century. From then on, the common sense of the farmers was praised and the countryside life was judged as healthy and good. However, intensification of agriculture and pollution have changed that picture again near the end of the 20th century: a large part of the land is marked as black (polluted), whereas the cities are white. Only a new scientific revolution, in which the farmers concentrate on ecologically sound production with added value, can change this image again, states Reijnders
When the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture discovered the outbreak of swine fever at the beginning of last year it was already too late, which led to the widespread epidemic that is still raging. The Dutch parliament is now considering holding an investigation into the suspected management shortcomings within the Ministry in controlling the epidemic. Professor Aalt Dijkhuizen, WAU chair in Economy of Veterinary Health, is not in favour of a political investigation of the role of parliament. Investment in improving diagnosis of the fever by implanting microchips in the pigs is more important, says Dijkhuizen. Right now the human factor is the weak link in the chain. The bio-industry is not to blame for the epidemic, but the spread of the fever can be controlled by limiting the amount of transfers between pig farms, says Dijkhuizen. He proposes a general tax for the farmers, which they would be returned to them if they don't exchange pigs with other farms
Ria van Maurik serves coffee and tea to the managers in the WAU headquarters. She likes to be cheerful and have a laugh with the executives. When I enter a room I just feel whether I can say something or not. They sometimes have very difficult conversations. Then I can't make a joke, can I? She likes the rector, who once used the copy machine in person. I have never seen a rector do that before. She once made a mistake when she entered a meeting room and cheerfully asked: Milk in your coffee, gentlemen? Instead of well-known faces she saw strangers. The wrong room. The chairman replied: Are you trained for this job, ma'am?