Are the rich and powerful in the world using new technologies and the world market to exploit small farmers, or will biotechnology and the electronic highway provide tools to farmers and citizens in every global village for improving their living standards? This discussion was at the heart of the Agrarian Questions international congress, which took place last week in Wageningen. The intellectual descendants of Karl Marx accused capitalism of increased exploitation and biodegradation, whilst followers of American futurist Alvin Toffler predicted a decrease of power relations and a build-up of networks of global villages in the near future.
These different viewpoints also emerged during a discussion concerning oThe agricultural sciences and the WAUo. According to Indian economist Bina Agarwal, the Universityos mission should be to alleviate poverty and inequality in the world. WAU-professor Paul Richards pointed out that WAU cannot be judged as a centre of knowledge with a mission any more, but should open itself to society in all its complexity, and participate in networks composed of several institutions. The university should generate mindsets in social networks to which these minds belong, said Richards.
WAU professor Norman Long, Department of Sociology, returned to his roots in England one and a half years ago. After twelve years in Wageningen, he wanted to concentrate on the big questions in the social sciences, but he missed the interaction with society at the University of Bath. Moreover, he feels the succession of Tory governments have spread a British disease over the education system, by decreasing the amount of money available and imposing a lot of red tape on the British universities. He was glad he could return to Wageningen by increasing his part-time position here to a full chair again.
Starting this month, every member of the University should have an identity card at work, and the University should have a copy of its employee's passports. This is due to the new Identity Law introduced by the Dutch government. WAU has decided to request identity papers from new employees only, but a few scientists are opposing the law completely. Society is becoming more and more divided into those with a positive and those with a negative identity", says one of the employees. I can't accept that."
Does the study of animal sciences at WAU provide tools for a more sustainable animal husbandry, with less animal diseases and better housing conditions? We look at the efficient use of inputs," says chairman Pim Brascamp of the Department of Animal Breeding, But I don't feel responsible for advising the animal sector. We do fundamental research; one can use it for several applications. The justification of our research is that the price of milk and the energy costs are decreasing. There are no signs that we are reaching the limits to improving the production."
The university will elect its new Council between the 2nd and 16th of June. Five parties, of which two are student parties, will contest twenty-eight chairs on the Council.